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Flotsam
10-10-2006, 11:11 AM
This Annie Leibovitz photograph was used on the 12" LP liner on one of Lennon's albums. I am an admirer of Lennon but I was so taken by this photograph that I matted and framed it and it has hung on my wall for more years than I can recall.

I am not really interested in Leibovitz as a photographer. I am just wondering what others think of this particular picture as a photograph and also as a portrait.

blansky
10-10-2006, 11:20 AM
I never really cared much for Liebovitz from when I wrote that Ansel Liebovitz parody a couple of years ago. I think she's a photographer who works by committee and one of her shoots has enough "assistants" as if she were shooting a movie.

As for this picture is doesn't do much for me. My criteria for celebrity photography is, if it was Uncle Bob sitting there would it be a great picture. To me the answer is no.

What makes the picture is that it is John Lennon. Not much else adds to it.


Michael

Gay Larson
10-10-2006, 12:04 PM
I agree with Michael in that this is not an interesting portrait on it's own. It is interesting that John Lennon is sitting in a room that looks like a basement of a not too expensive home. Must have been the early days, he's not even wearing the granny glasses. The lace pillows are a surprise too, makes you wonder if he's in a groupie's bedroom???

Flotsam
10-10-2006, 12:14 PM
As for this picture is doesn't do much for me. My criteria for celebrity photography is, if it was Uncle Bob sitting there would it be a great picture. To me the answer is no.

That is interesting. I came very close to mentioning that very thing in my original post but I disagree with you. I think that if it was someone's Uncle Bob, it would say a lot about him. If Uncle Bob were gone, I would prefer this photograph as a remembrance of him over something more formal or outside of his personal surroundings.

Bill Mitchell
10-10-2006, 12:27 PM
What parody?

eric
10-10-2006, 12:37 PM
I never really cared much for Liebovitz from when I wrote that Ansel Liebovitz parody a couple of years ago. I think she's a photographer who works by committee and one of her shoots has enough "assistants" as if she were shooting a movie.

I *knew* some of those assistants! I processed a bunch of her personal film when I was a B&W lab rat. I would be so busy and she'd come (her assistant), and drop film off. Each roll would be different. And each roll had notes on it like "process in rodinol in XX develop for XX time". Crazy stuff. I was doing everything in D76 and Inspection but I had to stop and do her stuff almost one by one.

If you've been to the Wax Museum in NYC, there's actually a wax figure of her holding her trademark Mamiya RB. No waxies of assistants though.

copake_ham
10-10-2006, 12:57 PM
My reaction was a like Michael's.

I knew a lot of long haired guys who fiddled with guitars in bed wearing blue jeans and a blue "workshirt". (err....I was one myself).

If it wasn't the "celebrity" it wouldn't be considered much of a photo.

But perhaps it was mutually beneficial. It demonstrated that Liebovitz had "access" to a celeb in even the most informal settings. And it made many of Lennon's guitar-fiddling fans think: "Hey, this dude's just like me!"

Had to be a career enhancer for both....

SuzanneR
10-10-2006, 01:01 PM
I quite like this one, as Flotsam said, if this were Uncle Bob it'd be a great reminder of his life... and this is a great reminder of Lennon's life. Looks almost like some makeshift bedroom at a music studio or something. That "business" phone in the back and the cinderblock wall strikes me as his "home away from home". I've mentioned this before about other photos, but I love the feet! :D

catem
10-10-2006, 01:04 PM
Well, I like it. I find it impossible to think about it as being something it isn't though (without John Lennon). Seems an odd way to be thinking about it. It is John Lennon, and catches him in quite an off-beat mood, makes a change from the Lennon-Ono pics, makes him seem very ordinary (well, as ordinary as it is possible for him to seem).

I can't look at any pictures of John Lennon without feeling sadness - somehow this makes me sadder than most.
Cate

bruce terry
10-10-2006, 01:26 PM
Looks documentary-ish to me, like it probably worked very well within a series (supported the album cover from what you say) but standing alone not an earth-shaker. Maybe it's the album-oriented square format restricting a casual scene, maybe the Great Leibowitz needed to rush off to another celebrity gig, I don't know, to me this is just a straightforward historical record, taken in passing.

Bruce

PS- Not that there is anything wrong with square, or taking in passing

Michel Hardy-Vallée
10-10-2006, 01:36 PM
Aww, come on! This is the ultimate proof that Lennon was a real hipster: he smokes Gitanes, and not the more common Gauloises. Gitanes rips your throat in two, obliterates your voice (a must for any singer), chokes any dog within a radius of five miles, and does more to assert your frenchiness than any striped shirt or béret. I like the photo for the Gitanes pack.

Cheryl Jacobs
10-10-2006, 01:48 PM
My take on this and most all of Annie's work....

She's a commercial photographer, and she shoots like one. She serves up images that look like you'd expect them to look. She's an assignment shooter, and there's nothing wrong with that. But it says absolutely nothing remarkable to me whatsoever. This image of Lennon, like most of her celebrity work (which is pretty much all she does) simply says, "Look who I get to hang out with." Same message as in her recent TomKatieSuri stuff. I see her images as records of privilege, and that's about it.

blansky
10-10-2006, 02:01 PM
What parody?

I apologize to those that had to read it the first time.

http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=4347


Michael

catem
10-10-2006, 02:10 PM
My take on this and most all of Annie's work....

She's a commercial photographer, and she shoots like one. She serves up images that look like you'd expect them to look. She's an assignment shooter, and there's nothing wrong with that. But it says absolutely nothing remarkable to me whatsoever. This image of Lennon, like most of her celebrity work (which is pretty much all she does) simply says, "Look who I get to hang out with." Same message as in her recent TomKatieSuri stuff. I see her images as records of privilege, and that's about it.

I like some of her pictures of Susan Sontag.

blansky
10-10-2006, 02:22 PM
Well, I like it. I find it impossible to think about it as being something it isn't though (without John Lennon). Seems an odd way to be thinking about it. It is John Lennon, and catches him in quite an off-beat mood, makes a change from the Lennon-Ono pics, makes him seem very ordinary (well, as ordinary as it is possible for him to seem).

I can't look at any pictures of John Lennon without feeling sadness - somehow this makes me sadder than most.
Cate

The reason I mention the Uncle Bob comment is that a very large number of pictures of celebrities are only "good" because it's a celebrity. That's why I mentally impose "Uncle Bob" into them. If it stands up, it's a good picture, if not, well....

Part of this is because we seem to have this strange relationships with media created celebrities and make emotional connections with them, even though we have no real idea what they are really like. We sort of treat them like an exhaulted family member. When we see their pictures our hearts race a little, much like they would if it were of our child or loved one.

While we do this, we promote the photographer who happened to get access to this celebrity, to a celebrity status as well, somehow thinking that since we "love" the person in the image, we are in some sort of awe of the person who took this masterpiece. This picture says nothing more about the photographers ability than the fact that she had access.

The magazine industry understands this and finds that readership goes up with virtually every magazine on the racks, if a celebrity is on the cover. This happens even though there is nothing about the celeb in the magazine. It's an strange interesting human quirk.

The adage "if you want to be a famous photographer, take pictures of famous people" applies to this genre.

This picture was probably during the time Leibovitz worked for Rolling Stone and had access to rock stars, and almost any picture of one's rock "hero" was considered sacred.

I agree this is a "nice" picture of an unglamorous moment, but without the emotional 'baggage" that you, a lover of John Lennon bring to it, is it a good picture?

In my opinion it's not a bad picture, just nothing special. Maybe to you that is the point. Not sure.


Michael

catem
10-10-2006, 03:41 PM
I agree this is a "nice" picture of an unglamorous moment, but without the emotional 'baggage" that you, a lover of John Lennon bring to it, is it a good picture?

In my opinion it's not a bad picture, just nothing special. Maybe to you that is the point. Not sure.



I'm not sure I'm a lover of John Lennon exactly, or even a fan, it's more associations with early childhood & The Beatles - an unbelieveable phenomenon in the sixties in the U.K. - and then his untimely death which was pretty horrible - 'Emotional baggage' doesn't sound quite right, I prefer to think of it as 'associations'...and yes, it's hard or impossible to discard this, and I'm not sure of the value of doing so, as that is all part of how I respond to this particular photograph. This was, infact, the orignal poster's question, or reason for posting, rather than a consideration of Liebovitz as a photographer, and I suppose I was trying to keep to that too.

It's an interesting question though, the relationship between a picture and whatever it is the viewer brings to it. I'm not sure you can ever strip the latter bare, or even if it's desirable to do so. It's important, though, to be aware of the perspective you bring.

I suppose for whatever reason, I do like this one, and I find it more interesting to reflect on my reasons for liking it (however subjective) rather than considering the photographer's role in general. I suppose, with a different photo or subject, I might be more interested in the latter. It isn't 'anything special' on one level, except, as I said before, it shows John Lennon unusually unaware of the fact that he's in the media's eye and I like that, I think it's part of it's success. You could say L. was simply showing that she knew J.L., or you could say it's showing that J.L. knew L. and wasn't acting up to her - I suppose I'm not sure what everybody is meaning by the 'special' when they describe it as 'nothing special'....to me it has captured something of John Lennon. I might find the photographs that Jane Bown took of him in the sixties more striking but there again...they speak of a different time, a totally different decade, also a different (non-existent really) relationship between subject and photographer...

I think my main point is (sorry if this has been rambling...) you can't have a picture of an icon and say "Would this work if the subject wasn't an icon?" because that is the essence of the photo, and changes what might work and might not work in other circumstances....

Cate

bruce terry
10-10-2006, 04:30 PM
"I think my main point is....you can't have a picture of an icon and say "Would this work if the subject wasn't an icon?" because that is the essence of the photo, and changes what might work and might not work...." Cate

True, and I see Uncle BOB being told to go home now. :¬/

blansky
10-10-2006, 04:50 PM
I'll give one more example of what I'm talking about and then I quit hogging the thread.

Take 2 iconic portraits Karsh's Churchill and Migrant Mother.

Possibly the reason we like the Churchill so much is he is celebrated, famous beyond belief, and Karsh did a masterful job of bringing out his grumpyness. All in all a great portrait. But if you take him out and put in another "executive" who you didn't know, would the picture have anywhere near the same impact. Same expression, same lighting but the who cares factor enters it.

Now with Migrant Mother, we don't know who she is, or really care. We just can see a perhaps distraught, overburdened, human being. We are drawn to it, not because we know her, but because we feel for her. She is a dramatic representation of the human condition. We connect.

With Churchill, with John Lennon, Madonna, we connect but in a sort of superficial way, with Migrant Mother we connect in a profound way.

That was what the Uncle Bob thing does for me. If it weren't a celeb would I care.


Michael

MattKing
10-10-2006, 08:07 PM
Michael:

Have you ever seen the other shot that Karsh did of Churchill during the same sitting, where Churchill is smiling?

Some times the iconic stature is as much the subject of the portrait as is the icon.

I like the Liebovitz portrait of Lennon because of the interplay between the man, and his fame.

It wouldn't work with Uncle Bob, unless it was Uncle Bob Dylan of course.

Matt

donbga
10-10-2006, 08:57 PM
My take on this and most all of Annie's work....

She's a commercial photographer, and she shoots like one. She serves up images that look like you'd expect them to look. She's an assignment shooter, and there's nothing wrong with that. But it says absolutely nothing remarkable to me whatsoever. This image of Lennon, like most of her celebrity work (which is pretty much all she does) simply says, "Look who I get to hang out with." Same message as in her recent TomKatieSuri stuff. I see her images as records of privilege, and that's about it.

One more thing I would add to Cheryl's astute reply is that since she began working for Vanity Fair her work broadened to include celebrities accross the spectrum of the entertainment industry. Her best know photo IMO, is this one ( a Lennon/Ono ) http://www.art-forum.org/z_Leibowitz/Ip/AL_Lennon.htm or the one of Demi Moore. My favorite was her cover shot on Rolling Stone of Meryl Streep.

IMO, her book on the summer Olympics in Atlanta and 'Women' were dismal failures and deserved their place in the mark down bins in bookstores.

Her flair for posing and getting celebs to do somewhat unusal poses was one of the reasons she suceeded as she has. FWIW, I think most of her best stuff was done in her Rolling Stone Magazine years.

I've also heard through the grapevine she is impossible to work for and can treat her assistants shamefully. My polite way of saying she is a Bee Eye Itch.

My 2 cents,