Monday, June 10, 2013
THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY
When I think of photography, I think Annie Leibovitz. Her name is synonymous with photo genius. Ms Leibovitz has chronicled the life and times of our world like no other.
Annie Leibovitz was born Anna Lou Leibovitz, on October 2, 1949, in Connectucut. Her father was a USAF lieutenant colonel, her mother an instructor of modern dance.
As a teenager, she developed an affinity for writing and playing music. She later studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institue and soon began honing her skills as a photographer.
Liebovitz enjoyed an illustrious career with Rolling Stone Magazine where she captured the essences of a multitude of musicians and artists such as John Lennon, Joan Armatrading, and The Rolling Stones. She's had countless exhibitions of her work in places such as the National Portrait Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Corcorian Gallery of Art.
In November 2011, Hans-Ulrich Obrist interviewed Ms Leibovitz for GQ Magazine. What follows is an edited version of that interview.
GQ: Were there any heroes in photograpy, people who influenced you?
AL: When I went to the Art Institute, the photography that was being taught was very personal reportage. It was Robert Frank, Cartier-Bresson. Robert Frank was considered the father of 35mm photography in America; Cartier-Bresson was the father of 35mm photography in Europe. They were the first photographers who went out with a very small camera and took pictures
GQ: Is it important for you that your work is not just for an art audience, but builds bridges to a wider audience?
AL: I'm not that sophisticated. If you do something for a long time, it only gets more interesting, and I think that's something that a lot of people shy away from; they don't realise that if you stick with something, it gets more complicated, and it's up to you to continue to grow it. You can have talent, but it can go away and you need to feed it. You need to take care of it and you need to find ways to inspire yourself.
GQ: Tell me about your book projects and their significance?
AL: The books are me. It's the opportunity to take the work that I've done with the magazines and distill it and give it its real meaning. When you work for a magazine, you're working with an editor who has an idea of what they want. I've been very lucky in that I've managed to get my point across in my magazine work as much as I have. But the reality is that it's not my place. Bea Feitler said to me that the way you learn about what to do is to look back: you need to look back to go forward. The  book I did was because Bea was dying and I wanted her to do a book, so I went ahead and did that, and it was a mistake: it wasn't well thought-out. It was thrown together because Bea was dying.
When I finally did my first real book, in 1991, it was titledPhotographs: 1970-1990, and was an edit of my work. It was the first time I had stopped for 20 years, and it looked back between 1970 and 1990. I kept the book chronological.
It was revelatory. It was so powerful for me to understand what I had done; it was such a learning experience. I was envious in 1990 of all my early reportage; it was so free, you know. But when you're older and you look back at your younger work, you can't go back to it. You can learn from it, and I tried to put it back into my work in 1990. It coincided with meeting Susan Sontag, and so those next 15 years, 1990-2005, are the years I was with Susan and in her influence.
GQ: What's the role of self-portrait in your work?
AL: I've never been interested in it. It's funny you ask me that: it's because I kept being asked if I was interested in self-portraits that I finally took some. Usually they're in hotel rooms with a mirror or something like that. The problem with self-portraits is that I'm so used to looking through the camera that it's hard to get to the other side. I did a family portrait of myself and my children shot into a big mirror. But I have enough in front of me; I don't need to turn the camera around.
GQ: What role does chance play?
AL: It's everything. If I go into a sitting I think of what I'm going to do, have an idea, have a plan, and then hope for chance. I hope for other stuff to happen. Especially in the portrait, I'm not alone - I'm working with another person. I'm hoping stuff happens.
GQ: Is there someone you've always wanted to photograph?
AL: This year I said to myself I really want to photograph the [performance] artist Marina Abramovic and Lady Gaga. So I'm photographing Marina Abramovic with Robert Wilson, that's coming up, and then I'm also photographing Lady Gaga. [At Vogue] Anna Wintour says, "Give me your short list," and I give it to them and they try to make sure that I do them. I want to keep them like a good butterfly collection. I want to make sure I have the people in popular culture that interest me.
I want to continue to do that. I don't think there's a single image that stands out for me; it's more like the importance of the work is in the body of the work. It's a strange occupation. There are moments in my work when I know that the subject is at this pinnacle in their life, and I feel responsible to take a photograph of them that will last