What do you think of Annie Leibovitz's "A Photographer's Life"?

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by Videbaek, Sep 26, 2007.

  1. Videbaek

    Videbaek Member

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    I received the book a while ago as a present -- shipped all the way from America, hot of the press. I'm glad to have it. I have plenty of thoughts about it. Also, a documentary film came out recently about Leibovitz's life as a photographer. My wife saw it, and liked it a lot. But the book... What do you think about it? Maybe this would belong in the "book review" section but I'm hoping for some commentary on the composition and substance of her pictures. "C'mon, what's with composition looking at the Gubernator on skis in the Tyrol?!" "C'mon, what's with composition looking at Sontag, bored and tired, splayed over a bed in Venice?!" Well, plenty. Or?
     
  2. rusty71

    rusty71 Member

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    I have not seen the book, but I was never that impressed with Liebovitz's photography. She did some good editorial stuff for Rolling Stone, but with any other subjects her approach seems amateurish at best. No real depth in most of her images. Then again, I prefer the surrealist work of photographers like Bill Brandt, whom likely influenced Liebovitz and others.
     
  3. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Her work was discussed on apug rather recently, I believe.

    She typically works with a myriad of assistants who handle much of the lighting and such. She has a self-professed inability to connect with her subjects, which comes through very much and will likely always prevent me from liking her work.

    - CJ
     
  4. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

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    Her older stuff is dynamite. I don't really dig her new stuff as much.
     
  5. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    I'm too busy living my own life to spend any time with hers.

    I saw this book at a bookstore last week. I picked it up, thumbed quickly through, saw Sontag's death and her father's death, and put the book back on the shelf. I get the feeling her camera is actually a shield from the world instead participating in it.
     
  6. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Just curious what older stuff you're referring to. Do you mean her early Rolling Stone work?
     
  7. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    I bought the book recently and thoroughly enjoy seeing her work. She's very clever and subtle if you take the time to study her work. You learn a lot about a person by seeing what they see.
     
  8. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Her work was discussed at length, here, but I can't find the thread to link. She's a very good commercial editorial photographer, and her stuff looks great in the pages of Vanity Fair. I've studied her group shots (in hopes of learning a thing or two about photographing large groups :tongue: ) which I think she is very good at.

    She's far better in the commercial arena, it seems to me, than in the personal. With a few exceptions... I don't find her personal work with her family in the book very compelling. Shame really...
     
  9. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    My son gave me the book a few months ago as a gift. While always happy to do whatever is necessary to encourage his interest in photography, including accepting photo books, I must say that I was not impressed with many of the images in the book. When I look at a book, frankly I want to learn something about how to make my photos as good as what I'm looking at, either by vision or technique. But many of the photos in this book seem to me to be nothing exceptional. OK, they're a record of her life and at least the title is honest, but where's the craft she's supposed to have? Many of the photos seem ordinary. I'm sure they serve as precious reminders to her of moments in her life, and if I were her they'd mean something to me, but I'm not so many have little value either emotionally or aesthetically.
     
  10. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    A darling of the cognoscenti in NYC, famous ONLY because she has photographed so many celebrities -- it's the well known faces that have made her famous, not her ability as a photographer. What she seems to have is drive. Drive to do what she does. Radio talk show hosts do too. They may be intellectual lightweights but it was their relentless drive to be on the radio and get all that attention that got them where they are. Same with Ms. L. It will always be this way. It ain't what you know, it's who.
     
  11. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I have a book with something about photojournalism in the title that featured work by her and Mary Ellen Mark. It was done well over 30 years ago when Liebovitz was the first staff photographer for Rolling Stone. At the time, Annie's photos were considered exciting because Rolling Stone was one of the few magazines highlighting rock and roll and alternate culture and the celebrities spawned by these phenomena. Now, as I look back on it, it was typical celeb photography. Later, I subscribed to Vanity Fair and saw more of her work and never thought it was distinguished from the adequate in any way. I think she was an early-on papparazzi (I have no idea how that is supposed to be spelled) which got her recognition and led to her rising to her current level of incompetence (if anyone remembers that theory). I have not seen "A Photographer's Life".

    When I first got the book I mentioned, I remember being impressed with Mary Ellen Mark's range of work much moreso than Liebovitz's. These days, I can't imagine Mark and Liebovitz being considered together in any respect.
     
  12. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Her approach, I think, mirrors that of Arthur Fellig (Weegee), who documented NYC's less trendy denizens: viz, "f/11 and bein' there."
    That sum's her up, to me.

    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
     
  13. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    I agree about Mary Ellen Mark. So much more depth there, IMO, and not dependent on the fame of the subject. I appreciate a photographer whose work says something.
     
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  15. lee

    lee Member

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    I don't think Mary Ellen Mark and Annie Liebovitz should be compared. Anne is an editorial photographer and Mary Ellen is a documentary photographer. They both are women and they both use cameras for a living but there the comparison ends as I see it.

    lee\c
     
  16. donbga

    donbga Member

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  17. Harrigan

    Harrigan Member

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    I had a friend who assisted her at one time. She went in with alot of respect for her and come out with absolutely none. The assistants do everything and she comes in and presses the shutter. At least thats what I was told by someone who worked for her briefly before walking out.
     
  18. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    It has been touched upon many times before, but her assistants do all the work from what some assistants who I have met have told me. I saw the actual prints from this book in person and even my girlfriend was picking them apart, which is pretty bad since she doesn't know much about photography. I don't think she does much original work and if you replaced the celebrities in her images with normal people who would care? Compare her images to Avedon's western portraits.

    She just seems hollow and a fake to me. Amoungst my friends she is referred to as Lieboshitz. But what the hell do I know. I can't take a picture either.

    Patrick
     
  19. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    It is always easier to judge than be judged.
    IMHO - Constructive criticism requires assessment and understanding of one's own interpretation of the given subject, with a pinch elegance.
     
  20. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

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    Yeah, I'm a sucker for that particular era of rock and roll and the images associated with it.
     
  21. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    The time for Liebovitz to receive constructive criticism was about 30 years ago when someone she respected and who knew a thing or two about photography could have told her that shooting pictures of famous people would never win her respect as an artist, merely as an opportunist.

    We APUGers all indulge in criticism of all kinds of photographers. The more famous they are, the less we probably feel obligated to use a "pinch of elegance". Since A.L. has risen to the status of having as much shelf real estate as she does in bookstores, then let her be judged alongside Cartier Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Arnold Newman, Margaret Bourke-White, etc.
     
  22. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    "...let her be judged alongside Cartier Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Arnold Newman, Margaret Bourke-White, etc."

    Or, as a photographer of famous people and style, Richard Avedon or Irving Penn. In those comparisons, she also comes up short.

    Sorry. I just simply don't like her work or the whole ga-ga celeb scene in which she seems to thrive.
     
  23. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    Constructive criticism? Why would anyone give contructive criticism of Liebowitz in a forum on the internet? That is given to people whom you know. Would you qualify Susan Sontag's writings as constructive criticism? A.D. Coleman's? I think you are confusing criticism and critiquing.

    Leibowitz puts her work out there as art. In San Diego it was shown at the Museum of Art, not the Museum of Photographic Arts (much better by the way, probably one of the best photo museums in the world.) I am offering an opinion based on my knowledge and my feelings of her work. I have seen the prints in person and they are pretty weak. At best they are family snapshots mixed with celebrity photos, but hold little artistic value. Compare her celebrity images with someone such as Kratochvil, who has made powerul portraits of many celebrities. Check out his book "Incognito." There are many photographers that deserve far more attention than she gets. I am just calling it like it is. I'll admit there isn't anything constructive about it. It's just criticism.

    Patrick
     
  24. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Wonder if anybody ever mentioned that fact to Yousuf Karsh...?
     
  25. sausage100uk

    sausage100uk Member

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    I wonder how many hours have been spent bitching about dead artists rather than taking pics????? :wink:
     
  26. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I like her work.

    I espescially like her Atlanta Olympics book.

    Perhaps she viewed the assignment as opportunism - a'la Leni R. - but she does capture the athletic body in a democratic kind of way. A triumph of the individual rather than of the "Will".

    I also detect just a slight whiff of envy and jealousy in this thread - although I could be wrong. :confused: :wink: