Monday, April 14, 2008

Annie Leibovitz at the Legion

Going into the show I knew I would have reservations about her work, but I tried to go in with an open mind and an artistic perspective, and not see her strictly as a commercial photographer, which I have to admit was very difficult. The most compelling photographs were those personal moments in the hospital with Susan Sontag, at Susan's burial, the photos of her family and of the rocks and shells that Susan collected. No doubt, Leibovitz is able to capture an intensity that other commercial photographers lack, which is in part due likely to her rapid and young success with Rolling Stone (whose work was sadly absent), as well as a talent and vision for the dramatic.
The celebrity photographs were so contrived and over-structured; their outrageous opulence was repulsive and I often wondered if Leibovitz herself exaggerated this in an insubordinate and defiant way, as to secretly mock and ridicule her subjects in their own narcissism. The photograph of Susan in Jordan walking between the canyons to Petra show Leibovitz’s talent for using natural light in highly contrasting ways, and her affection for Japanese perspectives in nature, placing her subjects in baffling and devouring environments. I’m still digesting the show and I still have revelations of things that I saw in her work and I wonder how intentional they were. She is either a genius or someone with a good eye and a better publicist. --Eve

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