Millennials may know iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz best for her infamous Vanity Fair cover photo of Caitlyn Jenner. However, long before the rise of these reality show spectacles, Leibovitz had already left an indelible mark on the world. Prior to the star-studded covers she did for Vanity Fair, she was a young ambitious photographer seeing the world through the lens of her camera.
Annie Leibovitz leads a walk-through of “The Early Years”
“The Early Years, 1970 – 1983: Archive Project No.1” brings us on a journey, featuring more than 4,000 profound photographs. Pinned to the wall in a casual grid format, each photo unto itself is a work of art. However, as I viewed the exhibition in its totality, I was engulfed by the sheer volume of work…as if I were in a fast moving car with historic images whizzing by. How does one woman accomplish so much in one lifetime?
From iconic images of Andy Warhol, to those of a fallen president (Richard Nixon), to the famed photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono taken hours before his untimely murder, this iconic photographer has captured it all. These images and many more including my favorite…Leibovitz’s uncensored, behind the scenes shots of the Rolling Stones tell each person’s story in an intimate yet candid way.
Annie Leibovitz, “The Early Years” photo by Richard Bilow
This exhibition is an extension of the 2017 survey of the same title presented by the LUMA Foundation at the festival Rencontres d’Arles, France. “The Early Years” is a fascinating inside look through the beginning of this legendary artist’s rise to fame. One can glimpse the evolution of her work as she trained her eye, and her true voice emerged.
The press preview provided access to a down-to-earth, honest and open Annie Leibovitz. She discussed how she organized the exhibit which took her months to curate. “It became a river of work, with a liberal edge,” said Leibovitz. It is a nod to her youth and where she came from. She said she had hoped that it would inspire young photographers. One can only imagine her task at hand as she delved through her vast archives. She admitted her pleasure in sorting through these memorable images. Vignettes of family photos are interspersed throughout the chronologically organized show. Leibovitz included a photograph of her own mother who was a dancer. She teared up, as she reminisced how special the experience was… “she wasn’t my mom anymore…she was a dancer and I was the photographer.”
She described her early years as living with her camera…she carried it with her at all times. “There was no food in my refrigerator, so there was no reason to go home,” laughed the photographer. After approaching Rolling Stone magazine (as a student) with her own images, she would go on to work thirteen years with the notorious publication.
Annie Leibovitz talks about that infamous John and Yoko photo; photo by Kathy Leonardo
In addition to capturing pivotal moments in history, she was assigned to go on tour with the Rolling Stones. She revealed her trepidation when she first received the assignment…she was taken aback, knowing that she would be the next photographer to document their tour after her mentor and hero Robert Frank did it. “I really wanted to be on the Bob Dylan/Joan Baez tour (the Rolling Thunder Revue) instead,” joked Leibovitz. Needless to say, we (the viewers) are glad she was assigned that tour in 1975.
As quoted in the New York Times, the gallery’s partner and vice president Marc Payot said, “There is rarely somebody who has captured America like her in terms of her perception of the 20th century.”
Annie Leibovitz looking back; photo by Kathy Leonardo
“The Early Years, 1970 – 1983: Archive Project No.1” featuring the photography of Annie Leibovitz opened on February 14 and will remain on view at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles through April 14, 2019. To find out more about the exhibition and the artist, visit https://www.hauserwirth.com/