Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990–2005
Annie Leibovitz (born 1949) is one of the most celebrated portrait photographers of our time. Since 1970, her iconic images, which capture the varied spectrum of American life and popular culture with remarkable candor and vigor, have appeared in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Vogue, in prominent advertising campaigns, and in books and museums.
Almost all of the 197 photographs in this exhibition were taken in the years since 1990. During this time Leibovitz produced her famous images of a pregnant Demi Moore and of Nelson Mandela in Soweto, photographed the siege of Sarajevo, expanded her repertory to include landscape imagery, documented the inception of the White Oak Dance Project with Mikhail Baryshnikov, and created advertising campaigns for the Gap and American Express. On a personal level, she experienced the deaths of her father and of her long-time friend, the writer Susan Sontag, and the births of her three daughters.
The exhibition offers an exceptional view of Leibovitz’s oeuvre. Work made on assignment as a professional photographer is interwoven with personal pictures. A series of images documents Sontag’s hospitalization and recovery from cancer and then a subsequent recurrence of the disease, ending in searing photographs of her final days and her death. Equally direct are photographs of the artist’s aging and ill father, who died shortly after Sontag. The emotionally fraught depictions of illness and death are leavened with pictures of joyous family gatherings and tender and beautiful pictures of Leibovitz’s daughter Sarah and her twins, Susan and Samuelle.
The exhibition and its accompanying book, published by Random House, bear witness to something the artist realized as she was preparing the material. “I don’t have two lives,” she said. “This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.”
August 9, 2006
Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005, an exhibition of more than 200 photographs, will debut at the Brooklyn Museum, where it will be on view from October 20, 2006, through January 21, 2007, prior to an international tour. Among the other venues to which it will travel are the San Diego Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the De Young Museum, Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, and London’s National Portrait Gallery, with additional venues to be announced.
Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005 has been organized by the Brooklyn Museum and is sponsored by American Express. Additional support has been provided by Richard Meier’s “On Prospect Park,” an SDS Procida Distinctive Property.
The material in the exhibition, and in the accompanying book of the same title, which will be published by Random House, encompasses work Leibovitz made on assignment as a professional photographer as well as personal photographs of her family and close friends. “I don’t have two lives,” Leibovitz says. “This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.” The material documents the birth of her three daughters and many events involving her large and robust family, including the death of her father.
Portraits of public figures include the pregnant Demi Moore, Nelson Mandela in Soweto, Jack Nicholson on Mulholland Drive, George W. Bush with members of his Cabinet at the White House, William Burroughs in Kansas, and Agnes Martin in Taos. The assignment work also includes searing reportage from the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s and a series of landscapes taken in the American West and in the Jordanian desert.
The exhibition will be installed in three sections. An introductory gallery will include exuberant photographs of subjects free from gravity, among them dancers, divers, and an airborne stealth bomber. The main gallery will include a chronological presentation of the fifteen years covered by the exhibition, in which personal photographs mingle with commissioned works. The final gallery includes eight large-scale landscapes.
One of the most celebrated photographers of our time, Annie Leibovitz has been making witty, powerful images documenting American popular culture since the early 1970s, when her work began appearing in Rolling Stone.
She became the magazine’s chief photographer in 1973, and ten years later began working for Vanity Fair, and then Vogue, creating a legendary body of work. In addition to her magazine work, Leibovitz has created influential advertising campaigns for American Express, Gap, Givenchy, The Sopranos, and the Milk Board. A retrospective of her work from the years 1970 to 1990 was presented at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and at the International Center of Photography in New York.
Leibovitz is the recipient of many honors, including the rank of Commandeur in the French government’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Barnard College Medal of Distinction. She was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000 and one of thirty-five Innovators of Our Time by Smithsonian magazine in 2005.
Charlotta Kotik, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, is curator of the exhibition.