I know, I know… The whole world seems to be talking about her, she’s the most recognized photographer in the world, her pieces are everywhere… and she’s got more media exposure than a Presidential candidate. I was at a point where I really thought that I’m over her, especially since she does so much celebrity photography.
But I must admit I’ve really come to appreciate her more than ever in the last few months.
All of this is probably due to her recent books, and the documentary about her. She released A Photographer’s Life in 2006, a fabulous book that really shows her range as a photographer. Leibowitz is well known for her celebrity photos, which is a genre I have zero appreciation for. But this book seamlessly interweaves her professional work, her photo journalism, her personal pictures, and her own creative imagery. It really shows her breadth as an artist. It could be argued that her celebrity enables her to pursue these different styles, but the fact is that she succeeds in creating memorable work. It’s really good.
In 2007, a film about Leibowitz was released called Life Through a Lens. My wife and I enjoy documentaries on DVD, and tend to watch a lot of photography films. We enjoyed this film tremendously. It’s shot really well, not unlike a narrative might unfold as told through still images. Although I don’t spend much time listening to celebrities, in this context it made sense. As a photographer we crave willing subjects, and it is fun to listen to famous people talk about photo shoots.
My friend Sasha just gave me At Work, Leibowitz’s newest book. It’s a real gem. There are many images from her career, and she spends a few paragraphs or pages discussing these pictures with the readers. Some of it is about the subject, the setting, or the shoot itself, but she also covers the gear she used, composition, and lighting considerations. It’s really a book for fellow photographers. At the end is even a “most frequently asked questions” section.
In the most recent book, she describes what it is like photographing people, and one’s own family in particular. I share her feelings. Some people are quite uncomfortable in front of the camera, and have been conditioned to smile and assume a slightly awkward pose. “Say Cheese” was invented in the 1950s, when everything was supposed to be happy and normal. It’s hard to break that habit, and virtually impossible to get a natural looking shot that way. Like her, I’m trying to get my children to ignore the camera, but it’s hard.
Annie Leibowitz is coming to Berlin, and I’m looking forward to meeting her. I’m actively involved with C/O Berlin, one of the most important photographic organizations. She’s going to be showing her work at C/O starting February 21st, and most importantly: she’s giving a talk – something she’s not done anywhere else.