Over the past four decades of her career, Annie Leibovitz has become one of the world’s best-known portrait photographers, now rivaling the legacies of forebears like Richard Avedon and David Bailey. Leibovitz began as a photojournalist at Rolling Stone in 1970, eventually serving as the magazine’s chief photographer until 1983. As a staff photographer at Vanity Fair and, still later, contributor to Vogue, she developed a comprehensive body of work—featuring actors, directors, writers, musicians, athletes, and business and political figures—that make up a collective portrait of contemporary cultural and intellectual life.
This rare autumn exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery in Singapore encompasses 38 large-scale prints in both color and black and white, and showcases Leibovitz’s most enduring work since the 1970s. Select subjects include Meryl Streep, Andy Warhol, Angelina Jolie, Julian Schnabel, Yo-Yo Ma, Carl Lewis, the Dalai Lama, and Queen Elizabeth II. Shot in various modes and evolving styles more sympathetic to the idiosyncrasies of her sitters than any overriding aesthetic vision, Leibovitz’s portraits are at once iconic, idiosyncratic, and intimate. She consistently captures the personal character of often very public figures—from the nude artist gleefully painted in a camouflage pattern of his own design (Keith Haring, New York City, 1986) to the comedian riotously disappearing into a bath of warm whole milk (Whoopi Goldberg, Berkeley, California, 1984). Leibovitz has said: “Having your photograph taken involves a performance, portraits particularly. The photographer provides the subjects with a stage—but then they have to project. You are taking a real picture in real time no matter how conceptual it is. There is a reality in the performance.”
Also included are images from her recent series of still lifes, “Pilgrimage,” which she considers as a sort of inanimate portraiture. The delicately conserved page shown in Emily Dickinson's Herbarium, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2010), for example, stands in for the nineteenth-century American poet herself.
All photographs on view are match prints that Leibovitz produced while finishing a limited edition book of photographs published by Taschen earlier this year. The exhibition also runs concurrently with the travelling retrospective “Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005,” at the ArtScience Museum at the Marina Bay Sands.
“Annie Leibovitz” is on view at Sundaram Tagore, Singapore, Sept. 12th–Oct. 12th, 2014.