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View Full Version : What do you think of Annie Leibovitz's "A Photographer's Life"?



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Lee Shively
09-27-2007, 12:27 PM
"...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.

patrickjames
09-27-2007, 03:58 PM
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.

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

eddym
09-27-2007, 04:33 PM
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.
Wonder if anybody ever mentioned that fact to Yousuf Karsh...?

sausage100uk
09-27-2007, 05:07 PM
I wonder how many hours have been spent bitching about dead artists rather than taking pics????? ;)

copake_ham
09-27-2007, 06:23 PM
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: ;)

mark
09-27-2007, 06:49 PM
She may not make a personal connection with her client but who cares. She creates image. When you look at her subjects you see the image they want you to see.

As for the "but is it art" vomit? To me her images are. To others not. I would love to sit down with her and try to figure out her visual processes. How she can create the desired image. When you see the people you don't see them you see their persona, their image, and that is why she gets hired. She could make a homeless man look like the most powerful person in the world.

It is funny to hear people talk about all of her assistants and what not. Have you heard how Maplethorpe(sp) worked? I roll my eyes too but hell, if it works for them, and apparently it does/did, then who am I judge.

Cheryl Jacobs
09-28-2007, 09:19 AM
George, to not like someone's work does not require envy and jeolousy. I'm sure there are many photographers whose work you don't personally value, but I doubt it's because you're jealous of them.

Mark, I mentioned her lack of ability (or effort) to make a personal connection because, to me, most people images without soul leave me cold. Doesn't mean her work can't be valuable to someone else, but it's a major factor in my not liking it.

catem
09-28-2007, 09:19 AM
I enjoy her work.

edit: Posted at same time as Cheryl's response and no connection to it.

catem
09-28-2007, 10:23 AM
I wasn't going to expand on my last short comment, as we've been round the houses on this one before on this forum! I have, anyway. Oh well!

I do think Leibovitz's work has the power to make connections, to make you stop and look a little further, think a little bit. Maybe not all of it, but as has been said, a lot of her work is editorial and that would not always have been the prime purpose.

I also saw a documentary where she spoke of her difficulty in 'making connections' with people she is photographing. I had a slightly different take on what was being said - I thought she was being honest and even self-deprecating, certainly willing to investigate the complexities and pitfalls of photographing people.

I do certainly think there is more to her work than the fact that she was in the right place at the right time.

Videbaek
09-28-2007, 01:18 PM
An interesting avalanche of thoughts, reactions, critiques and judgements. I guess I won't add any. There was interesting commentary on "bringing out the soul of the human subject", Leibovitz's self-professed inability to do so, and how photography captures the consciously projected, immaculately prepped image of the celebrity subject. I personally have never seen a photograph that in any way brings out the soul of a human subject. I have only seen photographs that show how life and circumstance have made their marks on the visage, left their trace in the eyes in some physically perceptible way. There's one picture in the book that's a show-stopper for me: the Bush Administration in the Oval Office. It's eerie. Frightening. One thinks: can it be real? Do these people exist? The banality of evil, here seen in the stars'n stripes lapel pins and the knowing blankness of the politician's gaze.

Lee Shively
09-28-2007, 02:56 PM
That observation on "banality of evil" depends more on your perspective than on any talent on the part of the photographer. Those of us on the other side of the political spectrum would likely see something else altogether. Or, perhaps nothing at all.

"A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." Now who was it that sang that song?

Cheryl Jacobs
09-28-2007, 03:53 PM
Cate, I actually am in agreement with you in terms of appreciating the candor in AL's statement. Still, though, the fact remains that her work lacks it (in my frank opinion) and therefore does nothing for me.

Cheryl Jacobs
09-28-2007, 03:54 PM
I personally have never seen a photograph that in any way brings out the soul of a human subject.

Svend, that's a shame. I've seen many, and they've had a profound influence on my work and philosophy.

copake_ham
09-28-2007, 08:54 PM
That observation on "banality of evil" depends more on your perspective than on any talent on the part of the photographer. Those of us on the other side of the political spectrum would likely see something else altogether. Or, perhaps nothing at all.

"A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." Now who was it that sang that song?

Lee,

While I am generally closer to Svend's side of the political spectrum than yours - I found his statement unnecessary, OT and a "flame".

Frankly, it undermines his OP and suggests he had a different agenda than to just discuss the merits of the artist.

gr82bart
09-29-2007, 04:01 AM
Back to the topic on hand ... I thumbed through the book at the local B&N a while ago and I personally didn't find the images within interesting. Well, not exactly true, I found it pretentious, so maybe it had great artistic vision? Dunno. I didn't buy it.

Regards, Art.

Videbaek
09-30-2007, 06:31 AM
My observation on "the Bush picture" was necessary (to me). I don't know what OT is. If by "flame" you meant that I was out to provoke you or someone else here on APUG, no I was not. I couldn't care less.
No agenda, just curiousity about what people think of the book, which has some interesting content -- the Bush picture being the most interesting thing in it for me. I have some very well-informed and strong thoughts, perspectives and opinions about America's current foreign policy. That's neither here nor there, certainly not for APUG.

copake_ham
10-01-2007, 09:40 AM
My observation on "the Bush picture" was necessary (to me). I don't know what OT is. If by "flame" you meant that I was out to provoke you or someone else here on APUG, no I was not. I couldn't care less.
No agenda, just curiousity about what people think of the book, which has some interesting content -- the Bush picture being the most interesting thing in it for me. I have some very well-informed and strong thoughts, perspectives and opinions about America's current foreign policy. That's neither here nor there, certainly not for APUG.

Since this is an international forum with people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints - yes, I do think your comment was calculated to be inflammatory.

I don't doubt that you have "strong thoughts, perspectives and opinions about America's current foreign policy" since your use of the phrase "banality of evil" in the earlier post was hardly a neutral comment.

As a matter of fact, while I might be somewhat inclined to agree with you (although I waver between "evil" and "stupid" in describing the man and his Administration) I don't think it adds anything to the discussion and unnecessarily angers folks who have different viewpoints.

John_M
04-30-2008, 01:32 PM
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.

Hmm never seen that happen before:D

haris
05-01-2008, 02:20 PM
Leibovitz came here during the war and Peter Lindbergh in one interview described that adventure of her wery well. In short he said he didin't liked her comming with whole bunch of assistants, journalists etc which followed her and made quite good advertizing campaign of hers comming. So, she came to "help and sympathyse" with poor savages and get quite media attention.

You know like when you donate for some humanitarian purposes, and then get tax deduction :)

Then again, she came and he didn't :)

bwphoto
05-09-2008, 07:14 PM
I am not a fan of her work, either and have the book(s), her latest and on the Olympics ( which seems more honest editorially). But why I am responding here with all of what has been written for and against her work is that during her Detroit Institute of Arts opening late last year AL was to speak in person at a special lecture discussing her approach, et al. Well, she not only did not show up (I know, its Detroit) but she told the curator of photography that she had a commercial job worth $100K and could not pass it up for a lecture and one woman show of her work. I guess short of any other excuse, the curator had to say like it is in front of 300 people who had paid to hear her. This in-your-face approach by many of her 'famous' celebrity subjects' seems to have rubbed off on Ms. L