This presentation seeks to examine a photographic portrait of Martina Navratilova by Annie Leibovitz. Both Leibovitz and Navratilova are famous women; Leibovitz for her unique and evocative portraits, and Navratilova for her skill, success, and strength as a tennis player. With this photo, Leibovitz seeks to go beyond the simple portrait and explore the personhood of her subject in a setting and context that viewers do not expect. For instance, other pictures of Navratilova shot by Leibovitz show Navitalova posing with a tennis trophy; when viewers imagine a photograph of a famous tennis player, this portrayal is more expected. The Leibovitz portrait of Navritilova selected for this analysis shows the subject in a setting that is far removed from the tennis court that she is renowned for. To analyze this portrait, semiotic analysis answers many questions about this unusual portrait. When a culturally important figure such as Martina Navratilova is removed from her typical setting, it highlights and questions the cultural importance of Navratilova herself, concepts of her place in society as a woman, sexuality, consent, qualities like strength, the effect of the gaze, and the concept of a sports legend.
Exploring the meaning behind Leibovitz’s “Martina Navratilova” provides an interesting way to explore cultural issues of fame, gender, sexuality, and media constructions of reality. This image is ideal for analysis because it portrays a famous sports star that many people are familiar with, but places her in an unusual context. Many people may also be aware that Navratilova was one of the first openly gay sports figures, and considering the problems and progress LGBT people experience today, this portrait of Navratilova is relevant to the subject of sexuality (Navratilova). Also, society often heralds its favorite sports figures as role models. The intersection of Navratilova’s fame, gender, sexuality, and her depiction in the media make this portrait a relevant piece to analyze in those perpetually important issues.
A semiotic analysis will be the most important aspect of the presentation regarding the photograph. It is interesting to examine the relationship of Navratilova to the setting of this photograph, why Leibovitz selected this setting, and what meanings her placement in the setting has for photographer, subject, and viewers. Additionally, concepts such as the gaze, the body, and feminism are also important in the analysis of Leibovitz’s photograph.
Each member of the team will select an aspect or more than one aspect of the photograph to research. For example, finding out concrete details about the photograph such as exactly when and where it was taken can provide additional context and information. Despite the popularity of Leibovitz as a photographer, there are few scholarly or academic pieces regarding her work. Research must be done including seeking interviews with her, such as her “10 Questions” article, reading about recent commentary on her work, such as Kincaid’s article, “Hannah Montana’s Bare, Unprotected Back,” and looking for biographical material online and at the library. In addition, Leibovitz has several collections of her photography work, including Photographs, Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970–1990, Olympic Portraits, Women , American Music, A Photographer’s Life: 1990–2005, and Annie Leibovitz at Work, any of which will provide valuable insight by the photographer on the meaning and history of her work and the photograph in this presentation.
Kincaid, James. Hannah Montana’s Bare, Unprotected Back: Miley Cyrus’s Vanity Fair Outing. The Velvet Light Trap 65, Spring 2010, 5-6.
Leibovitz, Annie. 10 Questions. Time 172.23 (2008): 8. Print. 16 Feb. 2013.
Leibovitz, Annie. Martina Navratilova [photograph]. PBS American Masters, 3 Jan. 2007. Web.
Leibovitz, Annie. Olympic Portraits. New York, NY: Bulfinch, Jul. 1996. Print.
Leibovitz, Annie. Photographs Annie Leibovitz 1970-1990. Boston, MA: Harper Perennial, 21 Oct. 1992. Print.
Navratilova, Martina. Martina’s Story. Martina Navratilova Official Website, n.d. Wec. Accessed 15 Feb. 2013.
Somerstein, Rachel. Annie Leibovitz: Life Through A Lens. PBS American Masters, 27 Oct. 2008. Web.