Annie Leibovitz: Inside the Archives of the World's Most Iconic Photographer
Starting out as a simple girl who liked art in Maryland in the 1960s, Annie Leibovitz grew up to make quite a name for herself in the world of photography. Her immensely successful career includes a decade as chief photographer at Rolling Stone Magazine.
In that role, she all but defined the brand's style with the photos she captured in iconic sessions with mega-celebrities like John Lennon, Meryl Streep, Michael Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and many others. Want to see for yourself? Let's take a dive into the life and career of this legendary artist.
An Adventurous Beginning
Annie Leibovitz started her life in a small Connecticut city as the middle child of six siblings. Her large Jewish family often uprooted and moved to new places during her childhood due to her father's career with the U.S. Air Force.
Rediscovering Her Passion
After attending high school in Maryland, Annie Leibovitz decided to pursue her studies at the San Francisco Art Institute. At first, her artistic leanings inspired her to choose painting as a major, but that soon changed. After signing up for a photography workshop, she switched her major.
Getting Her Big Break
After her escapades during college, Leibovitz returned to the United States with a drive for working in photography. Thanks to her skill and credentials, she landed a job any aspiring photographer would be glad to get: a role as a staff photographer at Rolling Stone Magazine.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
One of the most iconic images from Annie Leibovitz's career was splashed on the cover of Rolling Stone on December 8, 1980. Leibovitz was working at the magazine as chief photographer when she headed to John Lennon's apartment to snap some highly provocative shots of him with Yoko Ono.
A few young people won't recognize this iconic film directed by Quentin Tarantino, but Pulp Fiction was an instant hit in the 1990s. The hard-hitting movie grossed more than any other independent film before it, and its unprecedented success called for an equally successful photographer to do a photo shoot with the cast.
Most will remember when famous former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner underwent this transition later in life than most — at almost 70 years old — and her great unveiling was completed with the help of none other than Annie Leibovitz.
One of the most important roles that actress Salma Hayek stepped into during her career was that of famed artist Frida Kahlo. Her depiction of the inspiring woman made an impact in the 2002 movie Frida and landed Hayek a spot on the cover of Vogue.
Annie Leibovitz shot this image of Catherine Deneuve for a Louis Vuitton ad in 2008. She captured the French actress' best model shots on a smoky set alongside a train. For years, many well-known brands have trusted Leibovitz to capture the precise style and emotion they want for their products.
Annie Leibovitz's photo shoot with actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg is a fan favorite among many. This iconic image appeared in the 1984 edition of Vanity Fair alongside an article entitled "Making Whoopi." The scene is photographed from above and shows Goldberg with her arms and legs in the air lying in a tub full of milk.
Older generations are likely to be fans of knock-out singer Bruce Springsteen, and even the younger ones are likely to jam out to his hits, even if they don’t know The Boss’ name. He was the all-American rock star of his day, and one of his most famous albums is Born in the U.S.A.
Actor Johnny Depp has had a long and successful career on the big screen. Long before Pirates of the Caribbean, he was nailing roles in films like Edward Scissorhands, What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Annie Leibovitz has been known to take her fair share of elegant pregnancy photos. One example featured Demi Moore in 1991 on the cover of Vanity Fair. Moore was completely nude for the shoot, although tastefully covered in the photograph — while she was seven months pregnant.
While photographing A-list celebrities is a privilege few will experience in their lifetimes, getting an invite to photograph the President is another deal altogether. Of course, Leibovitz has such a great reputation that she was justifiably given the honor of snapping the prestigious Obama family.
Later in Leibovitz's career, she began to shoot fairytale images for Disney. She designed stunning portraits of princesses like Sleeping Beauty, Ariel the mermaid and Snow White. These princesses were all depicted by popular actresses, and they chose Scarlett Johansson to pose as Cinderella.
The Queen of England
Leibovitz's climb up the social ladder doesn't end with the President — she has also photographed the Queen of England. That's right, Leibovitz has captured the regalness of royalty through her camera lens. Thankfully, the Queen was satisfied with what Leibovitz produced.
Like many celebrities who have worked with Annie Leibovitz, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been photographed by her on more than one occasion. Another famous shoot of his included country singer Dolly Parton, but this one featured him alongside Franco Columbu in their bodybuilding days.
Women: New Portraits
If you think Leibovitz's work is a thing of the past, then you're gravely mistaken. In 1999, she began a series called "Women" with Susan Sontag. The series was left unfinished for more than a decade until it returned in 2016 as "Women: New Portraits."
Gloria Steinem Approved
When you have the legendary journalist Gloria Steinem speak at your "Women: New Portraits" exhibition opening, you know you’re an icon for women. On November 15, 2016, the feminist icon shared her support of the photographer’s lifetime commitment to showing the strength of powerful women through photography.
Annie Leibovitz was no stranger to pregnancy photos when she did a photo shoot with the very pregnant Serena Williams. Leibovitz placed Williams in front of a plain gray backdrop, emphasizing the athlete's dark skin, and blew a fan across her long, flowing locks.
It seems that there is no end to Annie Leibovitz's A-list celebrity clients. Another one of her subjects was the famous actress Meryl Streep. In fact, Leibovitz has shot Streep on multiple occasions. This specific photo, however, was taken back in 1981 for the cover of Rolling Stone.
There are plenty of incredible athletes that don't ever reach mainstream fame. A handful, however, become household names, and Lance Armstrong is one of them. His incredible success in the world of cycling earned him a spread in a 1999 edition of Vanity Fair.
If there's one thing Annie Leibovitz has made clear throughout her career, it is that she admires strong women. Women who work toward the future in any way are worthy of the public's attention, and sometimes even a photo shoot with the great Leibovitz.
Annie Leibovitz's 1981 photo of Christo was unlike any other she had taken before (or would take in the future). Whereas most of her photos seek to clearly display the subject to the viewer, this one entirely obscured him from view.
Just when it seems like the list of famous celebrities photographed by Leibovitz can't get any longer, we have the king of pop himself: Michael Jackson. This wasn't just a one-time deal, either — Leibovitz captured Jackson on more than one occasion.
When Louis Vuitton went with Keith Richards as a model for one of the brand’s ads, who did they turn to as the photographer? None other than Annie Leibovitz, of course. She captured Richards' hard-rocking personality perfectly in what was his first-ever gig in an advertising campaign.
Most photographers would be hard-pressed to capture the energy and spirit of a powerhouse comedian like Ellen DeGeneres, but Annie Leibovitz did an impressive job of it in a 1997 shoot for the American Portraiture Exhibit. DeGeneres posed in a bikini top with her face painted white and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth.
Annie Leibovitz has a knack for capturing actors in a finely curated light that reflects — and enhances — their public persona. This is what she did for Sean Connery in a Louis Vuitton advertisement. The dashing actor in his 70s casually sits on a dock on a pristine beach.
The 1980’s star Sting was photographed by Annie Lebovitz in 1985. He was the lead singer of the wildly popular band The Police and is the voice behind many hit songs, including "Every Breath You Take" and "Roxanne." His picture is unlike any other celebrity's portrait.
Where Is She Now?
Annie Leibovitz's family is a loving, albeit nontraditional, one. She had her eldest daughter at the age of 51 and went on to have two more daughters via surrogate mothers. This unorthodox path to motherhood has left her with a full family that keeps her quite busy.
With a resume that reads like an all-star line-up, Annie Leibovitz is a photographer that will go down in history. Her portraits have shocked and awed audiences across the country, and her approach to art is one that many seek to emulate.