mad in pursuit journal

DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS, AT THE intersection OF inspiration and perspiration

Annie Leibovitz

We stayed up late last night to watch a PBS special on Annie Leibovitz. I guess she's the most famous living US photographer.

I was familiar with her work from back when I subscribed to Vanity Fair (remember the cover photo of the pregnant and naked Demi Moore?). I didn't realize she started out with Rolling Stone and did many of her iconic photos there. Maybe the most famous is the one of John Lennon curling up to Yoko Ono, only hours before his murder.

I love looking at how artists work, but Leibovitz is overwhelming. She is equally adept at traveling with the Rolling Stones for weeks or setting up a very formal shoot with crews and lots of props. Every photo is wonderful. Every photo is an awesome combination of the inner life of the subject and Annie's unique perspective.


My conclusions about the secrets of her success. (1) Life is seen through her lens. Photography is all. She has one big talent, not a dozen little ones. (2) She got a good arts education, is grounded in the history of photography and got mentors when she needed them. (3) She is a master craftsperson, knows her tools. Impeccable in her knowledge about how to produce what she sees. (4) Huge empathy for her subjects. Does her homework. She can completely join with them in their world and it puts them at ease. (5) Fearlessness. Being so open to the world around you is painful for some people and it makes them shrink back to protect themselves. But Leibovitz goes for broke on every assignment.


(1.6.07. I was glum about facing that I'm too old to be an artist like Leibovitz, but something reminded me of the Fox & Hedgehog. Comforting to remind myself that, as much as I admire and envy hedgehogs, I'll always be a fox.)