Monday, May 11, 2009

Annie Leibovitz At Work

I never cared much for Annie Leiboviitz's commercial work. It always seemed to me to be nothing more than big budget, formulaic, churned out product.

Then I saw her retrospective show at the Legion of Honor here in San Francisco and I was truly impressed by her photojournalistic work: mostly B&W work from the early part of her career and the work she did in the 1990's in Sarajevo and Rwanda.

I had heard that her most recent book, Annie Leibovitz At Work, was quite good and finally decided to pick up a copy and read it. I have to say that the first half of the book is quite interesting, but from page 113 on I struggled to find anything compelling in either the text or the images.

Frankly I found her discussion of digital photography absolutely dreadful. Leibovitz is actually pleased to be telling the reader that her pictures of Queen Elizabeth are digital fabrications. For her session with the Queen she had 25 minutes. All the photos of the Queen were shot in a single room in front of a gray seamless. Four costume changes in 25 minutes, that was it. The background scenes of beautiful rooms in the palace and the stormy sky above the gardens, those were all separate digital photographs that were Photoshopped together with the portraits of the Queen.

For me the book was a disappointment. In my opinion, Annie Leibovitz is at her best with a Nikon F, a 35mm lens and a roll or Tri-X.


John W. Wall said...

Reminds me. At the Cal Academy of Sciences, they photograph everyone in front of a green screen so they can sell you a picture of yourself at the aquarium, the rainforest, or wherever....

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