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I had the chance earlier this week to look over a copy 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 deleted. I’ve thought better about it.

I love the idea behind this body of work. Seeking a creative reawakening as her legal and financial troubles mounted, she traveled to a number of site’s that were significant to her in one way or another: Elvis’ birthplace, the homes of Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Dickenson, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Henry David Thoreau to name but a few. In her own words, she was trying to save her soul.

Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance warehouse in Yonkers, N.Y (From: Annie Leibovitz - Pilgrimage)

I was pretty underwhelmed by the photos in the book at first blush. None of them struck me as very emblematic of her highly recognizable portrait and fashion work, and that’s really the point behind it all. I don’t think you can have a creative rebirth by doing the same thing you’d been doing – at least I’ve never been able to.

I would be disappointed if someone dismissed something I’d done as quickly as I dismissed Pilgrimage. Leibovitz deserves better and I’m capable of better. I’d come into something with expectations and, when they weren’t met, moved on quickly without thinking too much about it.

Sigmund Freud's couch in his study at 20 Maresfield Gardens in London. (Annie Leibovitz - Pilgrimage)

When we approach an image, we need to be listening, not talking, not filling in the blanks. Annie Leiboitz is a smart and talented photographer and I’ll be returning to those pages to find out what she has to say.


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