Annie Leibovitz, October 2006
|Birth name||Anna-Lou Leibovitz|
|Born||October 2 1949 (age 73)|
Waterbury, Connecticut, United States
|Training||San Francisco Art Institute|
|Influenced by||mother, a modern dance instructor|
Her most famous photo appeared on the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine (January 22, 1981), showing a naked John Lennon wrapped around clothed Yoko Ono in bed, taken just hours before Lennon's untimely death. Actress Demi Moore's pregnant and naked body on Vanity Fair's August 1991 cover is another well-known Leibovitz photo.
Working for Vanity Fair since 1983, she has photographed numerous stars and celebrities, from teen actress Miley Cyrus to England's Queen Elizabeth II. Her photos were first recognized by Rolling Stone Magazine, which named her its chief photographer in 1973.
Leibovitz, whose most famous cover photos often involve nudity, has established herself as an astute observer of American popular culture and has published seven books, including the uniquely personal, A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005, with photos of her close companion and mentor, author Susan Sontag. In 2005, American Photo named her the most influential photographer currently at work.
Early life and education
Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, Leibovitz was the third of six children in a Jewish family. Her mother was a modern dance instructor, while her father was a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force. The family moved frequently with her father's duty assignments.
In high school, she became interested in various artistic endeavors and began to write and play music. She then attended the San Francisco Art Institute and wanted to be an art teacher. She became interested in photography after taking pictures when she lived in the Philippines, where her father was stationed during the Vietnam War. For several years, she continued to develop her photography skills while she worked various jobs, including a period on a kibbutz in Israel for several months in 1969.
When Leibovitz returned to America in 1970, she worked for the recently launched Rolling Stone magazine. In 1973, publisher Jann Wenner named Leibovitz chief photographer of Rolling Stone. Her intimate photographs of celebrities helped define the Rolling Stone look. In 1975, Leibovitz served as a concert-tour photographer for The Rolling Stones' Tour of the Americas. She moved with the magazine to New York, remaining with it until 1983.
On December 8, 1980, Leibovitz was assigned a photo shoot with John Lennon for the cover of Rolling Stone. After she initially tried to get a picture with Lennon alone, as requested by the magazine, Lennon insisted that both he and Yoko Ono be on the cover. Leibovitz tried to re-create the kissing scene from Lennon and Oko's recently-released Double Fantasy album cover, a picture that she loved. She had Lennon remove his clothes and curl up next to Yoko. Leibovitz recalls: "She said she'd take her top off and I said, 'Leave everything on'—not really preconceiving the picture at all. Then he curled up next to her and it was very, very strong. You couldn't help but feel that she was (emotionally) cold and he looked like he was clinging on to her… John said, 'You've captured our relationship exactly." Lennon was shot and killed five hours later, giving her portrait of him and Ono instant notoriety.
Vanity Fair magazine
Since 1983, Leibovitz has worked as a featured portrait photographer for Vanity Fair. One of her most famous photos for the magazine was a cover portrait of an unclothed and pregnant Demi Moore from a 1991 issue titled "More Demi Moore."
Leibovitz later sued Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement of the shot after Paramount had commissioned a parody photograph of actor Leslie Nielsen, "pregnant," for use in a promotional poster for the 1994 comedy Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult. Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., has become an important fair use case in U.S. copyright law. At trial, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found that Paramount's use of the photo constituted fair use because parodies were likely to generate little or no licensing revenue. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the verdict.
On April 25, 2008, the televised entertainment program Entertainment Tonight reported that 15-year-old Miley Cyrus had posed topless for a photo shoot with Vanity Fair, which Leibovitz had conducted. The photo, and several behind-the-scenes photos show Cyrus without a top, her bare back exposed but her front covered with a bedsheet. Some parents expressed outrage at the nature of the photograph, which a Disney spokesperson described as being "created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines."
In response to the ensuing media attention, Cyrus released a statement of apology on April 27: “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."
Leibovitz herself released a statement saying: “I'm sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted," Leibovitz said. "The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful.
Other noted projects
- In the 1980s, Leibovitz photographed celebrities for an international advertising campaign for American Express charge cards.
- In 1991, and exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery featured Leibovitz's work.
- Also in 1991, Leibovitz emulated photographer Margaret Bourke-White's feat by mounting one of the eagle gargoyles on the sixty-first floor of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, where she photographed the dancer David Parsons cavorting on another eagle gargoyle. Noted Life photographer and picture editor John Loengard, who was photographing Leibovitz for the New York Times that day, made a gripping photo of Leibovitz at the climax of this dangerous episode.
- A major retrospective of Leibovitz's work was held at the Brooklyn Museum. The retrospective was based on her book, Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990–2005 and included many of her celebrity photographs as well as numerous personal photographs of her family, children, and partner Susan Sontag. This show then went on the road for seven stops. It was on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from October 2007 to January 2008, and as of April 2008 is at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
- In 2007, Leibovitz was asked by Queen Elizabeth II to take the her official picture for her state visit to Virginia. The session was filmed for the BBC documentary A Year with the Queen. A promotional trailer for the film showed the Queen reacting angrily to Leibovitz's suggestion ("less dressy") that she remove her crown, then a scene of the Queen walking down a corridor, telling an aide "I'm not changing anything. I've had enough dressing like this, thank you very much." The BBC later apologized and admitted that the sequence of events had been misrepresented, as the Queen was in fact walking to the sitting in the second scene. This led to a BBC scandal and a shake-up of ethics training.
- In 2007, the Walt Disney Company hired her to do a series of photographs with celebrities in various roles for Disney Parks' "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign.
Leibovitz had a close romantic relationship with noted writer and essayist Susan Sontag, who was 16 years her senior. The couple met in 1988 when Leibovitz photographed Sontag for the book jacket. Leibovitz has stated that Sontag mentored her, and constructively criticized her work, and helped her finally feel at home in New York.
After Sontag's death in 2004, Newsweek published an article about Leibovitz that made reference to the relationship with Sontag. Neither of them had previously disclosed that the relationship was an intimate one. Leibovitz later acknowledged that she and Sontag were romantically involved.
Leibovitz has three children: Sarah Cameron Leibovitz (b. October 2001) was born when Leibovitz was 51 years old. Her twins Susan and Samuelle were born to a surrogate mother in May 2005.
Famous Leibovitz photos
- John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the Jan. 22, 1981 Rolling Stone cover, shot the day of Lennon's death.
- Linda Ronstadt in a red slip, on her bed, reaching for a glass of water in a 1976 cover story for Rolling Stone magazine.
- Actress Demi Moore has been the subject of two highly publicized covers taken by Leibovitz: the Vanity Fair cover feature her nude and pregnant, and a later Vanity Fair cover of her, again nude, but with a suit painted on her body.
- Actress Brooke Shields (pregnant) for the cover of Vogue in April 2003, the first image of a visibly pregnant woman on its cover.
- Actress Whoopi Goldberg lying in a bathtub full of milk, shot from above.
- Artist Christo, fully wrapped, so the viewer must take the artist's word that he is actually under the wrapping. 
- Actor and musician David Cassidy on an infamous 1972 Rolling Stone cover depicting him lying on his back naked from his head to just above his crotch.
- Singer and actress Dolly Parton vamping for the camera while then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger flexes his biceps behind her.
- Actors Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, as The Blues Brothers, with their faces painted blue.
- Queen Elizabeth on occasion of her state visit in United States in 2007.
- Musician Sting in the desert, covered in mud to blend in with the scenery.
- Closeup portrait of The Who's guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend framed by his bleeding hand dripping real blood down the side of his face.
- Rolling Stone's fiery cover of punk rock singer/songwriter Patti Smith, entitled "Patty Smith Catches Fire."
- Singer Cyndi Lauper's, She's So Unusual and True Colors album covers 
- Singer Bruce Springsteen's, Born in the U.S.A. album cover.
- Model Gisele Bündchen and basketballer LeBron James on the April 2008 cover of Vogue America.
- Teen idol Miley Cyrus' Vanity Fair photo in which the young star appeared semi-nude.
Leibovitz's photo books
- Photographs, New York: Pantheon, 1983. ISBN 9780394532080
- Photographs 1970-1990, New York: HarperPerennial, 1991/1992, ISBN 9780060923464
- Olympic Portraits, Boston: Little, Brown, 1996. ISBN 9780821223666
- Women with Susan Sontag, New York: Random House, 1999. ISBN 9780375500206
- American Music, New York: Random House, 2003. ISBN 9780375505072
- A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005, New York: Random House, 2006. ISBN 9780375505096
- Annie Leibovitz: At Work, UK: Vintage, 2008. ISBN 9780224087575
- Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone cover of John Lennon Jan. 22, 1981.
- Vanity Fair, "Miley Knows Best," June 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Stephen M. Silverman, Miley Cyrus: "I'm Sorry for Photos," People, April 27, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Hollywood.com, Annie Leibovitz. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Smithsonian Magazine, Gaga Over a Gargoyle. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Brooklyn Museum, Leibovitz exhibition, Oct. 2006 - Jan. 2007. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Jacquelyn Lewis, "Artist Walk: Annie Leibovitz," October 19, 2006. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- ABC, Reuters: "BBC sorry for misrepresenting Queen," ABC News, July 12, 2007. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- USA Today, USATODAY Photo Gallery, Disney's dazzling 'Dreams,' January 25, 2007. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Rolling Stone, Rollingstone cover of John Lennon. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Vanity Fair, Demi Moore painted body. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- MiniWini, Whoopi in milk tub. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Bubbleshare, Wrapped artist Christo. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Bubbleshare, Her Royal Highness. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Cyndi Lauper, Discography. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- USA Today, LeBron James' 'Vogue' cover called racially insensitive USA Today, March, 24, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Celebrity News Planet, Semi-naked Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Harris, Melissa. Aperture: On Location—Studio Visits with Annie Liebovitz, Lorna Simpson, Susan Meiselas, Cindy Sherman, Adam Fuss, Joel-Peter Witkin, Jon Goodman. New York: Aperture, 1993. ISBN 9780893815486.
- Howse, C. Annie Liebovitz at Work, by Annie Liebovitz, SPECTATOR -LONDON- WEEKLY- no. 9402, (November 8, 2008): 45, British Library Serials, OCLC 275020460.
- Schirmer, Lothar, and Elisabeth Bronfen. Women Seeing Women: A Pictorial History of Women's Photography from Julia Margaret Cameron to Annie Liebovitz. London: Haus, 2007. ISBN 9781905791200.
All links retrieved July 31, 2023.
- Annie Liebovitz at Contact Press Images
- NPR's interview with Leibovitz, All Things Considered, October 3, 2006
- San Francisco Chronicle Interview, Nov. 1, 2006
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