Annie Leibovitz: Barbara Bush. Former First Lady. Copyright.
Annie Leibovitz: Frances McDormand. Actress, New York City. Copyright.
Annie Leibovitz: Haydee and Sahara Scull.
Painters. Miami Beach, Florida. Copyright.
Annie Leibovitz. Women
Annie Leibovitz and Susan Sontag: Women. Hardcover, Random House,
November 1999, 239 p. and over 100 portraits. Get it from Amazon.com,
Exhibition catalogue text by Susan
- Miami Art Museum until
March 4, 2001
- Friends of Photography, San
Francisco May 8 - July 15,
- Seattle Art Museum September
20, 2001 - January 6, 2002
Article added on March
Annie Leibovitz is one of the most
celebrated (female) photographers. Her portraits have been appearing in
magazines for over 25 years. She started as a photographer for Rolling
Stone magazine and works for Vanity Fair and Vogue. Her
first book, Annie Leibovitz: Photographers, was published in 1981.
Eight years later, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.,
presented the first retrospective of her work and Annie Leibovitz:
Photographs 1970-1990 was published. In October 1999, the Corcoran
Gallery of Art in Washington presented the present exhibition in
conjunction with the publication of Women, the book accompanying
the current exhibition at the Miami Art Museum which will travel on to San
Francisco and Seattle.
Susan Sontag has distinguished herself
with several novels and essays translated into 23 languages. She has also
written and directed four feature-length films and directed plays in the
United States and Europe. In 1977, she published the essay On
Photography. Therefore, the accomplished critic has been familiar with
photography for a long time. Her 17-page essay on women introduces the
reader to the more than 100 photographs by Annie Leibovitz presented in
Women is an exhibition and book with
powerful photographs of women living in America at the end of the 20th
century. It is, according to Susan Sontag, "an anthology of destinies
and disabilities and new possibilities...".
Annie Leibovitz' portraits of women have a
very wide range. She documents domestic assault, "the leading cause of
injuries to American women", with portraits of victims of domestic
violence. She goes beyond the stereotypes of female beauty, but of course
also presents models of beauty such as Jerry Hall, sportswomen like Marion
Jones and the tennis stars Martina Navratilova and the Williams
sisters. Besides models of self-esteem and strength, there are models of
transgressiveness, victimhood, false consciousness, successful and unsuccessful
Women in politics take a prominent place.
Not only the wives of former President Bush and Ford, former First Lady
Barbara Bush and Betty Ford, Chairman of the Betty Ford Center are
featured, but also then first Lady and today's New York Senator Hillary
Clinton, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Senator Barbara
Boxer. Among the "power women" one also counts Kathleen M.
Sullivan, Dean at Stanford University Law School, Martha Nussbaum,
Professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago and Carly Fiorina,
President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, photographed in her company jet.
Among the unknown, representing the
"average", working class women, are three soldiers, two bull
riders, five coal miners, a waitress and a washerwoman. Among the
actresses, one finds Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver, Frances McDormand
and the ever-present Elizabeth Taylor with her dog Sugar. Among the other
artists are Cindy Sherman, Yoko Ono, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin,
Haydee and Sahara Scull.
A highlight of the exhibition and catalogue are
the portraits of showgirls, who are once portrayed in their glamorous
outfits and once as "ordinary" woman; these are striking
According to Susan Sontag: "Just as
photography has done so much to confirm these stereotypes [about women in
the past], it can engage in complicating and undermining them." That
is exactly what Annie Leibovitz tried to do. As Susan Sontag puts it:
"It's for us to decide what to make of these pictures. After all, a
photograph is not an opinion. Or is it?"