American Masters – Annie Leibowitz – a perspective

Did you catch it?

Well an hour and half of a loving and apparently honest documentary by Annie Leibowitz’s sister, Barbara.


© Annie Leibovitz/ Contact Press Images

This photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono was made hours before he was shot to death in front of his apartment building.

As you are taken back to the home movies and photographs of the Leibowitz family, past and present, you are introduced to the rest of her family: her working family.

That includes the magazine publishers, the subjects, the editors.

One of the main recurring themes is her ability to blend. She would live and hang with her subjects in the early assignments, like the Rolling Stones, one of the most famous set of photographs of them from a 1975 tour.Although publisher Jann Wenner had warned against it, she lived with the hardest working , hardest living band in rock and roll. But she was able to hang. Just ask Mick.

But the imagery she came out with were an amazing ,unfettered, natural reportage set of photographs that can be made only as one who is intimate with their subject.

You can watch her style grow and shift as the decisive moment is replaced by the designed moment.

And then the shifts of life. As any parent knows, once you have children ,the deck reshuffles itself. You get to watch as it does….and doesn’t.

Her relationship with Susan Sontag is examined and discussed, but the images are what you need to see.

Now we’ve discussed Ms. Leibowitz’s ability to blend.

It must be a family trait because her sister, who made this documentary, has blended into her sisters’ life and the unique ability to share the earliest knowledge of her. As you are taken on the visual journey of her life, the viewer shares an intimacy that, on stepping back, you completely forget about.

Perhaps there are things left out to protect her sister, but I don’t think so.

You see first hand the professional hard at work. In every respect. No BS here.
And the woman who loves her children and those closest to her. a sense of the full circle of her life.

I was looking forward to this since I saw a clip at the Brookyn Musuem. Worth the wait.

Catch it if you can. And we given her book out here, but check out her full body of work.

Small note: In the beginning of her career, her sister said that her boyfriend of the time drove her to Rolling Stone magazine and almost pushed her out of the car to get her to go in and show her work. That man was a teacher of mine in San Francisco and often told that story and his relationship with Annie. And in the footage I think I caught a glimpse of him. Christopher Springmann is a good teacher and a terrific photographer. I hope he is still encouraging photographers.

Well done, Barbara Leibowitz. Thanks.

Damon Webster


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