“Visualizing what women look like, who we are, was a very, very important thing to do. Men have been portrayed, we understand in art and photographs very well. We understand how men look, but with women haven’t really developed that. Who are we? With my work, I’m very interested in what women do and who we are.” Annie Leibovitz
Until recent times history has been kind to men. Men dominated the higher roles of political office, the corporate sphere, science and discovery. There is no doubt many women have made many notable contributions Marie Curie in science, Aung San Suu Kyi to the people of Burma, business woman Elizabeth Arden to name a few. But a purely numerical count would reveal most top positions in the tenets of civilisation had been dominated by men. As a result, the male figure and character has been well recorded throughout history.
Women less so. Whilst a more level arena in recent times, the weight of history shows the scar of inequality. Annie Leibovitz is changing that with her series of photographs Women first started with her late lover Susan Sontag. Women, published in 2000, features portraits of women from all backgrounds showgirls, judges, maids and rock stars.
Susan Sontag a writer and activist who died in 2004 wrote of the images in Women “Each of these pictures must stand on its own, but the ensemble says, so this what women are now, as different, as varied, as heroic, as forlorn, as conventional, as unconventional as this.
Annie Leibovitz has played a major part in shaping how we view the women of 20th and 21st Century
Women: New Portraits is a global tour commissioned by UBS of new photographs by Annie Leibovitz, and a continuation of her and Susan Sontag’s earlier project. Starting at London’s Wapping Hydraulic Power Station on 16th January, the tour continues through 10 cities including Istanbul, Tokyo and New York during 2016.
These new portraits feature many well known faces alongside other women whose only public notoriety will come from being the study side of Leibovitz’s lens. Caitlyn Jenner’s famous cover from Vanity Fair last year, a horse straddling Stella McCartney, Adele flirting with a piano and an image of Aung San Suu Kyi peering nobly from the print are mixed with photos of mothers, writers and women. As the tour continues Leibovitz will add to the collection photographing women in each of the ten cities.
Many of these new pieces are taken from recent commercial work by Leibovitz brought together by UBS. Some pieces displayed together behind a perspex wall, others on large TV screens. Much of the new work has a touch of the renaissance, heavy tonal colours and moody windows into moments in time.
Most of Leibovitz’s best known work has been of the crème of celebrity for the biggest magazines, starting her career as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone in 1970 at the young age of just 21. By 23, Annie Leibovitiz was chief photographer at the Rolling Stone. Since Leibovitz has chronicled much of modern celebrity.
Just 5 hours before on the day John Lennon was murdered in 1981, Annie Leibovitz took a photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. A decade later, a Leibovitz photograph of a naked and pregnant Demi Moore featured on the front cover of Vanity Fair, at the time a provocative pose. Not many have escaped her lens, the Queen herself caught while in the US in 2007.
Annie Leibovitz has played a major part in shaping how we view the women of 20th and 21st Century, it begs the important question when Annie will add her own portrait to the collection.
Annie Leibovitz WOMEN: New Portraits exhibition commissioned by UBS Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, London. Runs 16 January 2016 – 7 February 2016. Admission: Free
Photo: Annie Leibovitz, New York City, 2012 © Annie Leibovitz