Annie Leibovitz is unquestionably America's most celebrated living female photographer. Born in Waterbury, Connecticut on October 2, 1949, she was the third of six siblings. Her great grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. As a child, her father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and the family moved frequently. Leibowvitz took her first pictures when the family was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War (2: An Early Sense of Direction).
She began to write and play Music while in high school (9: Music), and attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied painting and continued her interest in photography. In 1969, she spent several months on a kibbutz in Amir, Israel (3: Belief in the Unbelievable).
The next year, she started her career as the staff photographer for the new Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1973, publisher Jann Wenner (4: Supportive Someone) named her Chief Photographer, a position she would keep for the following decade. Her intimate photographs of entertainment celebrities had a powerful impact on the magazine's success. By the 1980s, she had begun working for Vanity Fair Magazine, and in 1991 she became the second living portraitist and first woman to have an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. She has also been made Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government (13: More Than Meets the Eye).
From 2006 till 2009, a traveling exhibition of her work appeared at a variety of international venues. She confided that she did not have "career" and "personal" lives because her assignments and personal pictures are of equal importance. "Talent is something anyone can have...it needs to be nutured, taken care of. The best thing about getting older is that you kind of know what you are doing - if you stick with something. It doesn't get easier. But you get stronger (7: Magnificent Obsession).
Her photographs of Queen Elizabeth in 2007 and of Miley Cyrus created mild media criticism, but Leibovitz answered that her work had been "misinterpreted" (5: Life is not a Populatity Contest).
In 2009, Leibovitz borrowed over $15 million and used her homes and the rights to her photographs as collateral (11: Risk Addiction). Her financial situation had been complicated by the deaths of her father, her mother and her life partner (Susan Sontag), and the arrival of her two children as well as renovations to three Greenwich Village properties. The legal wrangling continued for years (12: Hard Times).
The second picture above is of her latest book "Pilgrimage," which is a look at places and things of lasting value, rather than portraits. The photos include Emily Dickinson's only surviving dress, Abraham Lincoln's top hat, Thoreau's cane bed, Georgia O'Keefe's New Mexico home, and Freud's patient's couch. In her words "My book is a meditation on how to live. It's an old-fashioned idea, but you should always try to do what you love to do....I was told constantly taht this book wouldn't bring in money, and I should drop it. But I really wanted to do it. I needed to save my soul" (17: Dreaming Your Own Dream).
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