Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book: Annie Leibovitz's A Photographer's Life

Title: A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005

Author: Annie Leibovitz

Release Date: October 3, 2006

Genre: Art, Photography

No. of pages: 472

Annie Leibovitz is arguably one of the most prolific, well-known photographers working today, and if you've ever glanced at a Vanity Fair or Vogue cover, then you've most likely seen her work. Every year that Vanity Fair has had their Hollywood issue fold out cover is every year that Leibovitz has photographed Hollywood's finest and brightest for the annual issue, which you can check out here.

While she may have made a name for herself by photographing famous people (everyone from Nicole Kidman to Johnny Cash to President Bush and his cabinet), A Photographer's Life is filled with more intimate photographs of her family and her late partner, Susan Sontag, interspersed with her portraits of famous subjects. On a side note, Susan Sontag was a literary theorist, writer, filmmaker and activist, whose essay "On Photography," is one of the most analyzed and discussed essays about the art of photography.

Anyways, in the introduction, Leibovitz writes, 'I
don't have two lives. This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.' That pretty much sums up the book. It's really interesting to see the juxtaposition of the photographs that have made her who she is as a person (the documentation of her family and close relationships), as well as a careerwoman (the photographs of the famous people that have made her famous).

And while she is best known for the glossy, glamorous photograph
s that don magazine covers and billboards, the photos that particularly struck me were the everyday documentation of her private life. There is joy in photographs of family reunions, her children, and births, but she also is very frank in photographing her loves in their moments of illness, grief, and deaths. The snapshots of Sontag lying in her hospital bed, as well as shots from her funeral are so matter-of-fact that you almost don't realize the gravity of the situation.

Those who are just fans of Leibovitz's famous work will probably not derive much enjoyment from this collection. After all, more than half the photographs are either ordinary photos of Sontag or ordinary photos of her family. But to appreciate her as an artist, I feel like A Photographer's Life is an important collection
. Throughout the book you see the love she has for her career in her public body of work, just as clearly as you see the open expression of love she has for the people in her life in her private body of work. It's a really interesting coffee table book that deserves a look-through.

This is not in the book, but here is one of my all-time favorite works of hers, from a Vanity Fair cover a few years back. Awesome. Or should I say, hotness.


Duchess said...

I actually had no idea that Sontag was her partner! What an AMAZING pair...
little jealous actually.

Julia Park said...

I loved "On Photography" .. and I never knew that Susan Sontag was her partner!

Will said...

She's an amazing photographer, I definitely need to check this out.