When asked what a photographer's life is about, the subject of this film replies that it is 'a life looking through a lens'. She should know: Annie Leibovitz has been looking at all kinds of life through her lens for the last 30 years.
Viewers who haven't heard her name will certainly have seen her pictures: from a naked and pregnant Demi Moore to Bette Midler on a bed of roses; from Bruce Springsteen's famous pose in front of the American flag, to a naked John Lennon curled up and vulnerable next to a distant-looking Yoko Ono, Leibovitz's images are instantly recognisable.
In her 50s now, the photographer is working harder than ever. She's universally in demand from pop stars to political leaders, rebel-rousers to royalty (including our very own Queen) and she's no stranger to controversy. Her recent photographs of Disney Star Miley Cyrus caused a storm when the 15-year-old was photographed wearing only a sheet and smudged lipstick.
Leibovitz's career began as a photo journalist for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s, where she quickly rose to the position of chief photographer. She successfully captured the spirit of the age, from the rock and roll revolution to Watergate. She famously went on tour with the Rolling Stones, earning her reputation as photographer to the stars but picking up a drug habit along the way.
Clean for years now, Leibovitz's work is most familiar these days through the covers and pages of Vanity Fair magazine. In these shots, every picture tells a story - one which Annie Leibovitz herself has painstakingly devised and executed.
Popular culture is her domain but she's never been bound by convention. She sees no problem in taking commissions from both the Bush administration and Michael Moore.
In her personal life, too, Annie has veered from the customary path: having an intense and lengthy relationship with the late Susan Sontag; and giving birth at the age of 51, having realised she had 'forgotten' to have children.
Interestingly, when the lens is turned on her, Leibovitz is honest and humble. She sees the artifice in photography, never claims to have 'captured' a person's personality in their portrait, and freely admits that certain things - like the subtlety of dance - cannot ever be captured on film.
In this documentary, Leibovitz's sister Barbara has had intimate access to the photographer's life and work and shows the viewer that the two are inseparable.
Leibovitz's work will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London from October this year.
About the director
Barbara Leibovitz began her career in 1987 at the CBC News programme 48 Hours. She then worked at the Nine Network in Sydney, Australia. After returning to the US, she began freelance producing with Entertainment Tonight, Consumer Reports Television and VH1. In close collaboration with her partner Jaime Hellman, she has written, directed and produced award-winning documentaries for PBS and other networks such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic and CNN, among others.
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