Photography may seem like just clicking pictures of anything and everything. And that is exactly what the lay man perceives it to be. However what photography really is; is quite deep when one ponders the notion. Photography if were to be termed in one word, that word would be vision. We can label it as vision, or seeing or simply imagination, they all point towards the same thing, which is making a perception and mental image in your mind’s eye, then using your tool at hand (camera) to give that image a shape in a picture. Some people believe that photography depends on the tools one uses. Have a thousand dollar camera in your hand and pose yourself as a photographer. That is however, not correct, it is never really the artistry of the tools one uses, but the ability to see beyond the oblivious. Seeing is believing, it is said, and what makes a photographer is the observation he is endowed with. Putting that mental image onto a piece is the easy part, but to envision what you want it to be is what really constitutes a photographer. Painting and photography can be classified together, as each portrays a form of imagination which is corporeal. It is a misinterpretation, that photography can be done by anyone even a lay man, if he just has the gear to do so, however, this assumption is proved wrong by beginners when they start shooting, that just fancy gear, brightness, technical adjustments are not enough to give the required results. There needs to be passion and there needs to be a vision (Rockwell).
The photographer whose works this paper will shed light on is Annie Leibovitz. She is one of the most famous photographers of America; she was born on 2nd October, 1949. In 1970 she started her career as working for the chief photographer of ‘Rolling Stone’ and got fame with her work. Later in 1983 she started working for an entertainment magazine named ‘Vanity Fair’, in which she produced images which were breathtaking and a treasure to the eye. Leibovitz worked on advertising campaigns, and her work was also published in several books, and was also exhibitioner for all around the world. This was a massive achievement (Biography.com).
There are nine assignments which claim to have shaped Leibovitz career as a photographer, those being; the photograph of President Nixon's last day in office, her tour and work with the Rolling Stone, Images of Susan Sontag which she had deep affiliation with, her contribution to the dancing art, how she compared and contrasted death and life by taking snaps of her dying father and Sontag and her full of life daughters, the portraits of artists which were considerably conceptual, and many more,(Lieber). There are numerous other works which she carried out which were very famous as well, including the portrait of John Lennon, Angelina Jolie, Demy Moore, etc. However this essay will focus on these major works which contributed to her life as a whole
Richard Nixson’s photograph as he was boarding a plane by Annie Leibovitz was quite different and unusual for people. The photographers at that time were more concerned with snapping pictures of the pomp and show and dangly sparkly things, and publishing the gossip or very popular personal details of famous people such as the president to make their photographs attractive and accepted. However, Leibovitz stance was different. Leibovitz’s photograph of the 37th president who was leaving the White House in Washington DC in 1974 was taken quite incredibly. The photograph which she took of Nixon was an image in which the president was not apparent from inside the helicopter. The officers which accompanied him had their hands perched on their hats to prevent them from flying off. As the red carpet is rolled up, wind is seen gushing through making a delicate yet deep impression, also when the Monument of Washington peeks from behind, it gives an image of departure. With the assistance of photography, Leibovitz portrays the departure of the president owing to his failures during his reign of power. Not including him in the photo, although he was the subject to be captured shows a hidden meaning of excluding the wrong doers of the society from memory,’ (Wecker). This was the kind of picture which not many magazines would show, because there was a picture in between the picture which displayed or portrayed we can say the harsh realities’ of life.
Leibovitz told a magazine that she wanted to be an art teacher, and while studying at her city’s art institute was when she encountered her passion for photography. It was the first time she took a photography class, and instantly she knew that she found it the most enchanting passion and this was what she actually wanted to pursue. That was when she took her first toddler step towards photography, she sent in a few of her photographs to the famous music band ‘Rolling Stone’, and just like a movie, she was accepted on the first go, and she started her photography career with Rolling stone. Leibovitz did not let the band down, she proved to be a compatible and perfectly suited photographer for a rock n roll band, she worked alongside the reporter Hunter S Thompson and she clicked pictures of this genre of music when it was at its highest peak in the music industry. She did not just took pictures of the band though, she enjoyed herself too, her work was more of a passion then a job which landed her to be the ‘Chief Photographer’ of Rolling stone in 1973 when she was merely 24 years old. When the time for travelling came for Rolling Stone, Leibovitz went along with them. Her work was cherished and appreciated, and her vision of photography was miraculous. She even snapped a picture of John Lennon, lying nude with his wife who was clothed fully, and this photograph was taken just hours before he was murdered. This kind of last moment photographs are really hard to come by (Terry). No one knows when death might knock your door, if anyone knew they would all give anything to avoid it, in Lennon's case if he knew he would be murdered may be he would ahve caressed his wife a little longer. Leibovitz caught his love and passion for his wife in his nude photograph, which might not have been as important to his wife at that very moment, but surely after his death it must bring back those memories caught on this masterpiece which Leibovitz produced.
Her work also includes images of Susan Sontag. When Susan Sontag lost her life in December 2004, Leibovitz started her search for compiling pictures for her Sontag’s life which she could present as a token of gratitude and love at the memorial ceremony. She struggled and compiled quite a few but in the end; she did something out of the blue. She turned to her own photographs which she took of Sontag during the course of 15 years which they had spent together. This specific exercise was termed by her as an ‘archeological dig’; it took her back many years, as photographs preserve memories. All of those memories’ and moments were lived, she had to dig through her work to compile heritage of this woman, which was giving her an essence of love, life, death, illness that all contributed to one of her best works which the world recognizes her for. She stated in an interview to the NY magazine that, this work of hers was one of her best creations as it deployed intimacy and showcased something which she had affiliation with, (Scott).
Leibovitz is also known for her photography of the dancers, in the year 1990, she shot dancers including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer which was one of her best works. She was approached to photograph dancers in Florida, and she ended up staying and taking their pictures for three whole weeks. This triggered a childhood memory inside of her and it was nostalgia which made her heart pour with passion and she gave her best to it. Dance reminded her of her youth, it ringed bells of her mother’s presence in her life, she said, “My mother was a dancer, and taught dancing, so I grew up with dance. So you can imagine what it would have been in my work to photograph dance," (Lieber). Her photography was a way of relieving her past precious memories with her mother. Childhood is a bliss, and many want to relive it just once, to go back and do the things they once did, to feel the joy they once felt, to smile with the same care free heart yet once again. Annie was one of those people in history who relieved her childhood memories in the essence of her photography.
In East End of London, in an exhibition there are two red brick walls as old as time itself which are displaying the immortality and of Leibovitz photography spurred on the walls. It contains pictures of a ‘Women’ project which are inspiring to the naked eye. The pictures include, of Late L’Wren Scott lying across a chair, there are images of the Kardashians (who are quite famous today), there is also a photograph of the Queen which lights up the whole gallery at itself. Across the length of the board displaying the works of Leibovitz, the images are put up with thumb pins. On one end of the enchanting board are snaps which are old favorites and also personal, they include a picture of her mother as well. However the other side of the board is followed by a collection of 22 photographs of recent portraits. These include ‘the primatologist Jane Goodall, the artist Kara Walker, the Senator Elizabeth Warren and the singer Adele at her piano. Stuck to the bottom right of the board are three Post-it notes marking subjects to come: “Malala,” “Marina Abramovic” and “Serena + Venus” which are much awaited,’ (Judah).
Many photographs were taken of her father and Sontag decaying due to their ailment by Leibovitz. It is quite ironic that she captured the moments of pain and preserved them. Usually it is noted that happy and joyous moments are preserved, pain is tried to avoid, and one tries to shut his eyes from the reality, but Leibovitz caught depression, sadness and pain on camera. When she was asked as to why she took pictures of death and before death, also the steps leading to the departure from this world, she stated that she had an instinct and a liking to compare and contrast life and death. She compared the pictures of the death to the lively pictures of her three daughters. On the one side there were pictures so full of life and on one side pictures giving way to death. That was an interest of hers which contributed to some of her major works (Ann Lim).
Leibovitz sparkly and attractive portraits of celebrities have appeared on magazine covers and caught the eye of many for decades and supposedly for decades to come. She has a vision which is far different from other photographers, she likes to take challenges and give out images which are out of the ordinary. Everyone is familiar and able to catch a picture of a mountain or hill, she likes to go deep and explore artists who have not been explored like that before. She photographed John Lennon lying nude with his wife Yoko who was fully clothed, in a bath of milk Whoopi Goldberg was captured as she plashed it making an entrancingly beautiful sight,(Budick).
Photography is a form of art, which is deployed differently by different photographers in their own charismatic attire. Annie Leibovitz is an inspiration who at times reported that she felt left out as the celebrity world was full of fashion and she did not seem she fit in quite right but that did not stop her from pursuing her dream and her fashion. She had a vision to see beyond the apparent. That vision is required in photography to get the actual essence of it. ‘The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe’ (Berger, pg 8). How we look at things is no doubt determined by what we believe and what we know, if we see a glass full with water to the half. We can either perceive it as half full of half empty, it’s all in the eye, and it’s all in the perception. ‘The reciprocal nature of vision is more fundamental than that of spoken dialogue,’ (Berger, pg 9). At times the images say what the words fail to explain. Grief, sorrow, happiness, pain, joy, sexuality, tension, it all can be portrayed and photographed if you have the eye for it, not the camera. Camera is a mere tool of assistance which should not be mistaken as the actual thing for the artistic touch. Memories are preserved with the help of photographs when raw images are caught on tape. Years go by, and people pass by, even the mental images of them preserved by us start to dwindle away, but the photographs capture that moment taken and make it last for eternity, thus giving an immortal touch.
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