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Annie Leibovitz turns 62 today. Some of you might not recognize the name but I’d bet it would be hard to find someone over the age of 15 who’d never seen one of her photographs, at least in any of the so-called “developed countries.”

I will say right up front that I love Leibovitz’s work. Like anyone who has made a living with a camera, she’s done some real garbage. I’ve done some real garbage even without making my living with a camera. For some reason, though, it seems that some photographers love to piss all over her work. A few years back, The Online Photographer even had a post naming one of her shots The Worst Photograph Ever Made.

You know Leibovitz if you grew up reading Rolling Stone in the 70s. You know Leibovitz if you read Vanity Fair, which has provided us this excerpt from her book Annie Leibovitz at Work.

You know this photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken just hours before an armed lunatic took Lennon from an adoring world:

John Lennon and Yoko Ono (© Annie Leibovitz/ Contact Press Images 1980)

You’ve seen her celebration of the beauty and grace of pregnancy in this shot of Demi Moore:

Demi Moore (Annie Leibovitz 1991)

You may have even noted the media shitstorm over her beautiful shot of Miley Cyrus (you know, the one where Cyrus later claimed, for publicity purposes, that she didn’t realize what she was doing):

Miley Cyrus (Annie Leibovitz - 2008)

You’ve seen her images of Mick Jagger, Queen Elizabeth II, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Meryl Streep, Susan Sontag (Leibovitz’s partner until Sontag’s death in 2004) and an almost endless parade of the most prominent social, cultural and political leaders over the last 40 years. Her images have been celebrated at major museums like the National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran, and the Brooklyn Museum.  If you dig a little deeper into her work, you’ve seen her capture the humanity of ordinary people with the same light and brilliance as she captures in the rich and powerful.

Say what you will, I think Annie Leibovitz is a first-rate portrait artist who is far too often judged by the commercial work she does to make her living. Her work is a part of the American cultural landscape and will become an important part of our history once we’re gone. Look at it, celebrate it. It is who we are.

RXM

 

 

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  1. […] of Annie Leibovitz’s new book Pilgrimage. I’m a fan of Leibovitz’s work and have said so in these pages.  My first impression of the book was pretty negative and I drafted a review that I’ve just […]

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