Photography Legends #4 – Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz (October 2, 1949) started working as a staff photographer in 1970, with the then starting magazine Rolling Stone. In 1973 she became Chief Photographer for the magazine and held the job for over 10 years. Leibovitz worked for the magazine until 1983, and her intimate photographs of celebrities helped define the Rolling Stone look.While working for Rolling Stone, Leibovitz became more aware of the other magazines. Richard Avedon‘s portraits were an important and powerful example in her life. She learned that you can work for magazines and still do your own personal work, which for her was the most important thing.

On December 8, 1980, Leibovitz had a photo shoot with John Lennon for Rolling Stone, promising him that he would make the cover. She had initially tried to get a picture with just Lennon alone, which is what Rolling Stone wanted, but Lennon insisted that both he and Yoko Ono be on the cover. Leibovitz then tried to re-create something like the kissing scene from the Double Fantasy album cover, a picture that she loved. She had John remove his clothes and curl up next to Yoko. Leibovitz recalls, “What is interesting is she said she’d take her top off and I said, ‘Leave everything on’ — not really preconceiving the picture at all. Then he curled up next to her and it was very, very strong. You couldn’t help but feel that she was cold and he looked like he was clinging on to her. I think it was amazing to look at the first Polaroid and they were both very excited. John said, ‘You’ve captured our relationship exactly. Promise me it’ll be on the cover.’ I looked him in the eye and we shook on it.” Leibovitz was the last person to professionally photograph Lennon—he was shot and killed five hours later.

In February 2009, Leibovitz borrowed $15.5 million, having experienced financial challenges in the recent years. She put up as collateral, not only several houses, but the rights to all of her photographs.

Yoko Ono & John Lennon

Bette Midler

Leonardo DiCaprio

Sting

Meryl Streep

Jude Law

Angelina Jolie & Maddox

Whoopie Goldberg

Keith Richards

Demi Moore

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