21st Century Court Portraitist: Annie Leibovitz in London


By Emily Waldorf

Nicole Kidman shot by Annie Leibovitz in New York, 1993.

If you happen to be in London for the Frieze Art Fair, you should schedule a visit to The National Portrait Gallery’s concurrent exhibition: Annie Leibovitz:  A Photographers Life 1990-2005.  Organized by the Brooklyn Museum, the exhibition features over 150 of Leibovitz’ photographs, including her well-known images of celebrities, politicians, and the like as well as more personal images of her three daughters, her long term partner Susan Sontag, and close friends.

According to David Bailey’s article in the October issue of British Vogue, Leibovitz is something of a legend to work with.  He writes, “You might call her our generation’s Gainsborough, a ‘court portraitist”… her shoots are famously extravagant – over the years she has demanded, and obtained, increasingly God-like props:  horses, helicopters, rain, fire.  Occasionally – as for last year’s “film noir” portfolio for American Vogue – she will shoot seven or eight very famous people together.”

Hillary Clinton describes Leibovitz as “a major chronicler of our country,” and she is indeed one of the most famous portrait photographers of our time.  She has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of an extremely diverse group of public figures ranging from George W. Bush and members of his cabinet, a famously pregnant Demi Moore, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Whoopi Goldberg, Mick Jagger, Jamie Foxx, Nicole Kidman, and countless others.  Leibovitz’ oeuvre is stunning in its intense diversity yet consistently spot on analysis of her subjects.  The National Portrait Gallery exhibition promises to shed fresh light on her life and work and should be considered a must-see.

Annie Leibovitz:  A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005 is on view at the National Portrait Gallery from October 16 – February 1, 2009.  While you are there, be sure to have lunch at the stylish and contemporary Portrait Café with gorgeous roof top views of London.

Click here to book tickets for the exhibition.

2 Responses to “21st Century Court Portraitist: Annie Leibovitz in London”

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