Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens
In her portraits for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Annie Leibovitz has photographed a generation (and more) of rock stars, politicians, and supermodels.
Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens, a documentary created by Leibovitz's sister Barbara, suggests that she might be somewhat overqualified for the job.
Not that Leibovitz reflects too much on the business of photographing movie stars for a living.
Her nomadic life suits her just fine, and might have come from a childhood spent as an Army brat, moving around the world every few years.
Home movies give some of the flavor of Leibovitz's youth, and her arrival in San Francisco just as the Sixties counterculture (and Rolling Stone magazine) were getting underway is covered with old footage and new interviews with colleagues, including publisher Jann Wenner.
It was a wild time (Wenner speaks of sending Leibovitz on tour with the Rolling Stones as though he were responsible for selling her into slavery), and it took its toll; the movie doesn't go into great detail, but a substance abuse problem and subsequent rehab is acknowledged and quickly forgotten.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards remember her warmly, in any case.
Leibovitz's personal life is in the shadows, except for her relationship with writer Susan Sontag.
The rest is a series of testimonials from admiring subjects (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Whoopi Goldberg) and some on-location stuff for Vanity Fair, including a shoot with George Clooney and Julia Roberts.
Her working methods show someone with very specific ideas about what she wants, and a disarmingly blunt way of getting them.
Perhaps the most memorable section of this American Masters program is the account of Leibovitz's photographs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, including a celebrated Rolling Stone cover of a naked Lennon embracing his wife, taken a few hours before Lennon's murder.
That kind of work proves that in Leibovitz's world of portraiture, intimacy is everything.
Try to make an effort to see it!