Poster for the Annie Leibovitz exhibition" A Photographer's Life 1990-2005"
By Yun Suh-young
Of the 40 most famous magazine cover photos selected by the American Society of Magazine Editors over the past 40 years, two of the most-picked photos are by Annie Leibovitz.
She has an unparalleled reputation in the field of portraiture and celebrity photography, getting top celebrities to fly miles to have their photographs taken.
This American portrait photographer, dubbed a "living legend" by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2000, will introduce her signature covers in an exhibition in Seoul for the first time in Asia.
Her works will be displayed from Dec. 7 through March 4, 2014, at the Hangaram Design Museum at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. A total of 196 photographs will be on display at the exhibition, "A Photographer's Life 1990-2005."
The top two cover photos selected by the editors' society are of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a shot for the January 1981 cover of Rolling Stone, and a nude photo of a pregnant Demi Moore for the August 1991 cover of Vanity Fair.
Leibovitz, chief photographer for Rolling Stone at the time, was the last person to take a photograph of John Lennon before his death ― five hours after the photo shoot, Lennon was murdered by a crazed fan.
On the photo, a nude Lennon curls up next to Ono, who has her clothes on, as if he's cold and clinging to her. Leibovitz initially wanted to feature only Lennon on the cover as the magazine requested, but Lennon insisted that he and Ono be photographed together.
The cover photo of pregnant Demi Moore became a hit after a novel attempt by Leibovitz to have her in the nude, making nude pregnancy photos a trend among celebrities in the years to come. That edition was the most sold in the history of Vanity Fair.
Brad Pitt, Las Vegas, 1994 / Courtesy of Vanity Fair.
Leibovitz was a commercial photographer but she did not draw a boundary between commercial photos and artistic ones. Artistic attempts were displayed in the commercial photos she took of celebrities such as the widely known photo of Leonardo DiCaprio with a swan wrapped around his neck.
Her work involved other celebrities as well, many of whom are portrayed in black and white as Leibovitz has a particular affection for such photography. The monochrome portraits are mostly taken inside her studio in New York and her subjects are framed in an artistic composition.
Photos of Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Kate Moss are also on display at the exhibition.
Her subjects were not limited to Hollywood stars. Leibovitz photographed politicians such as U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Queen Elizabeth II.
The exhibition features a photo of former U.S. President George W. Bush and his cabinet members, a family photo of President Obama before he assumed office, a couple of photos of Hillary Clinton at work, and a photo of Queen Elizabeth II.
Hillary Clinton's photos come as a surprise because the photos are very natural and realistic but artistic at the same time, distinguishable from other photographs taken of her. Leibovitz apparently had expressed her respect for Hillary Clinton, among all female politicians.
Other than photos of celebrities, the exhibition features documentary photos such as Leibovitz's coverage of the Siege in Sarajevo in 1994, environmental photos of Western America and the deserts of Jordan, and personal photos of her family, featuring her parents, three children, and her lover, Susan Sontag, a writer and political activist she met when both of them had established notability.
Leibovitz spent 10 years of her early career in Rolling Stone as chief photographer from 1973. She also worked with Vanity Fair, Vogue, Gap and American Express with which she won a Clio award in 1987.
Leibovitz's exhibition, on a world tour, has garnered 2 million viewers worldwide at exhibitions in countries including France, England, Germany, Spain and Russia other than the United States.
Tickets are 15,000 won for adults and 10,000 won for children and students.