Annie Leibovitz - Michael Hoppen Gallery - Shine Gallery

Annie Leibovitz's exhibition was on the second floor of this photographic-orientated building (her work can also be viewed at the Shine Gallery till 30 June 2001). Leibovitz was born 2 October 1949 in Westport, Connecticut. Her mother, Marilyn, was a modern dance instructor for Martha Graham's Dance Company. Annie studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and did a night class in photography. She got her first commission from the Rolling Stone magazine, in the 70s - black and white photos of drugged-out rock stars in trashed hotel rooms. Her first job was taking a picture of Allen Ginsburg smoking a joint on a peace march. But her big break came in 1970 when she took a picture of John Lennon. They became friends and 10 years later she took the final photographs of him lying naked in the foetal position next to Yoko Ono, just a few hours before he was killed. In 1975 she toured for six months with the Rolling Stones but this ruined her both professionally and personally, as she became a cocaine addict, a habit which took five years to conquer. She said, "I almost lost my soul. I came out of it reluctant to ever give my self over like that again. "

In the 80s she did covers for Vanity Fair; the editor, Tina Brown, claimed that her gaudy pictures "made the pages sing". Vogue made her known for commercial photography. She schmoozed with Hollywood and crafted some of the most enduring images of the "rich, fat and vulgar eighties", such as: Don Johnson wearing a white Armani suit in Miami, Jeff Koons from head to toe in gold paint, and Donald and Ivana Trump dolled up like Ken and Barbie in the Plaza Hotel in New York.

Her first solo exhibition in 1991 - Annie Leibovitz: Photographs in 1970-1990 - at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC was the first solo exhibition by a woman. She is one of the world's most celebrated photographers. She has photographed everyone who is anyone, namely Demi Moore cupping her naked very pregnant stomach, Whoopi Goldberg in a bath tab of warm milk, Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr walloping extravagantly in mud, Michael Jackson in military regalia and cowboy boots, and Sylvester Stallone oiled and glistening. She said that she was terrified when she photographed Miles Davis, "I walked into his apartment and it was like walking into a spider's web. He was a dark, dark force". (I, too, met Miles Davis and found him a fascinating musician. )Her advertising campaigns for American Express 1987 and Gap 1988 still furthered her artistic cachet. In 1994 Leibovitz (suggested by the writer Susan Sontag, which was also her partner; they are going to have a child together shortly. ) travelled to Sarajevo to document the war-torn city. One photographer attacked her for "using Sarajevo to acquire street cred". Her next project was called Women 1998. Later she published a book, a series of portraits of female coal-miners, athletes and celebrities. She said that "photography is much bigger than magazines" and her ambition is to see her portraits hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in NY. Her exhibition, Giant Nudes, is a series of portraits of dancers from the Mark Morris Dance Group and Martha Graham Company; the ghostly blue/greenish images and the lighting give an effect of darkness exposing the pallor and veins of the lighter-skinned women. The beautiful photo of Terese Capucilli 1999 is an exploration of the female form, beautiful bodies with no faces but in three of them there is a outline of face, mostly from the neck. Alex Wek Nude N.7 is the body of black model, an exercise in pure form and erotic. Some say that some photos bring to mind Robert Mapplethorpe. (I saw his exhibition a few years ago at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank and I can tell you that it was really erotic, a discovery for me, I was really impressed by his photography). Nude N. 9 a splayed leg photo of Julie Woden bears some resemblance to the work of the painter Lucian Freud.

Verinha Ottoni.


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