Last month when I was in Brooklyn, I made it a point to hit the Brooklyn Museum to catch the last week of the exceptional exhibit Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990-2005. This is unlike any photography exhibit you'll likely ever see. Annie Leibovitz has had a rare look into the lives of so many people we read about on a daily basis: celebrities, politicians, royalty. Starting in the early '70s, she began shooting for Rolling Stone and then onto Vanity Fair and Vogue. In between, she's shot sitting presidents and other heads of state, including Nelson Mandela.
But, the thing that separates this exhibit from others is just how revealingly personal her photographs really are. Annie seems to always have a camera in hand, no matter where she is or what she's doing. She has chronicled so many moments of her life and her family's lives, including a candid shot of her mother, who had just turned 70, not smiling. Her mother pleaded with her to destroy the shot, because as a rule, ever since Annie and her siblings were kids, no matter what was going on around them, they always smiled for pictures. And photos were a big part of the Leibovitz family. Even more touching is Annie's celluloid storybook of her three daughters as well as her lover, Susan Sontag, who died a little more than two years ago from Leukemia. Annie captures Sontag at some of her most vulnerable points, like being transported on a stretcher via air ambulance after a failed bone-marrow transplant in Seattle.
It's nearly impossible to walk the halls of this gallery and not stare in awe at the greatness before you. Annie Leibovitz is a genius who reveals a very personal side of her life. She said, however, that "I don't have two lives. This is one life and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it." While it has left Brookyn, fortunately this exhibit is hitting the road. Starting this Saturday (Feb. 10), the exhibit camps out at the San Diego Museum of Art. From there, it will continue to travel to Atlanta High Museum of Art (May 12-Sept 9), Corcoran Gallery in DC (Oct. 13-Jan.13, 2008), SF's de Young Museum (Feb 9, 2008-May 11, 2008), Paris' Maison Européenne de la Photographie (June-Sept 2008) and London's National Portrait Gallery (Oct 2008-Jan 2009). Other venues will likely be announced. I implore you to catch this show and if you can't for whatever reason, pick up the book for your coffee table.
[image from the exhibit found on the New York Times website]
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