Annie Leibovitz, one of the most well-known portrait photographers, along with Ansel Adams, Cindy Sherman, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon, developed her love and passion for photography once she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute for their painting program.
People can recognize Annie Leibovitz’s photos through her use of bright colors, intense lighting and unusual poses. Her mother, Marilyn Leibovitz, was a modern-dance instructor and made Annie Leibovitz taking dance classes from her, hence her later interest in taking pictures of dancers. Here are some facts about Annie Leibovitz, the portrait photographer, that you have yet to know!
Annie Leibovitz, who is of Jewish heritage, lived briefly in an Israeli kibbutz, worked there and took a lot of photographs. Leibovitz returned to the United States the following year and got suggested by a friend to take her prints to Rolling Stone magazine’s headquarter in San Francisco.
Back then, Rolling Stone had just started as a new magazine that revolves around rock music and counter-culture. Impressed by Annie Leibovitz’s photos, Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone magazine decided to hire her as a staff photographer and started giving her assignments.
She once recalled, “I can never forget the sensation of being at a newsstand and seeing for the first time my photograph transformed into the Rolling Stone cover.” then at the age of 23 years old, Annie Leibovitz had become chief photographer for Rolling Stone and stayed there for another decade. Leibovitz’s position in the magazine gave her the opportunity to tag along the Rolling Stones band on their 1975 international tour.
Before Annie Leibovitz got promoted at the Rolling Stone magazine, Jann Wenner gave her an assignment to take portraits of John Lennon. The results were impressive that the magazine decided to feature Leibovitz’s portrait of John Lennon as the magazine’s cover of an issue in January 1971.
In December of 1980, Annie Leibovitz was assigned to take portraits of John Lennon again, but this time with Yoko Ono since they had just released their album called Double Fantasy. Yoko Ono was persuaded by Annie Leibovitz to pose nude but not convinced and declined.
At the end, She took pictures of nude John Lennon, embracing Yoko Ono who was dressed in black. This is actually one of Annie Leibovitz’s most famous photographs, but unfortunately John Lennon was fatally shot just two hours after the session. Rolling Stone magazine had this picture up as their cover picture to honor John lennon.
After working for Rolling Stone magazine for a decade, Annie Leibovitz left and started working for Vanity Fair, a magazine of popular culture, fashion and current affairs. Working for Vanity Fair as their chief contributing photographer in 1983 gave Annie Leibovitz the chance to take portraits of different kinds of celebrities; old to young, presidents to teen heartthrobs.
Annie Leibovitz’s stunning and impressive portraits of celebrities were featured as Vanity Fair covers; from the pregnant and nude Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg bathing in milk, the nude Sylvester Stallone, to Caitlyn Jenner posing in a corset after revealing her new identity as a woman to public.
She claimed, ”My longest relationship has always been my work. My work has always delivered for me. I’m happy doing exactly what I’m doing.. I can do this the rest of my life. It’s only going to get better.” and of course Annie Leibovitz and her photography have received some criticism as well, saying that her photographs are rather superficial due to its emphasis on celebrities.
Annie Leibovitz was in a relationship with writer Susan Sontag from 1989 until Sontag’s death in 2004. However, it was never disclosed whether their 15-year relationship was a platonic or romantic relationship, because they never actually lived together.
She and Susan Sontag traveled around the world together, finding interconnections with their work and end up pursuing their work even more. When interviewed for her book, an autobiography called “A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005”, Leibovitz mentioned that the time and journey spent with Susan Sontag was a love story to her. Leibovitz also has three daughters; Sarah was born in October 2001 when she was 52 years old, then had twin daughters, Susan and Samuelle in 2005 with the help of a surrogate mother.
Most of Annie Leibovitz’s early pictures were in black and white. However, once Rolling Stone magazine started publishing color pictures in 1974, Leibovitz had to adjust her style with the company’s style — she started using color film and learning new skills.
Annie Leibovitz once claimed that when she was in school, she was never taught and never learned anything about lighting — everything was black and white. Therefore, it was really a challenge for Leibovitz and she had to learn about color herself. Of course she did not just leave her black and white pictures easily. When Annie Leibovitz was on tour with the Rolling Stones in 1975, she took most of the pictures in black and white. Now we can see that Leibovitz has succeeded in both styles of photography.