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Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005

February 10 - April 22, 2007


The San Diego Museum of Art is the first West Coast venue for a major internationally touring exhibition of the leading contemporary photographer Annie Leibovitz from February 10 to April 22, 2007. Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005 features approximately 200 photographs by Leibovitz, including family photographs and portraits of public figures, such as Colin Powell, Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt, Merce Cunningham, and Bill Clinton. These compelling photographs provide a rare glimpse into the wide range of subjects captured by Leibovitz, who is counted among the most celebrated photographers of our time.

Organized by the Brooklyn Museum and sponsored by American Express, the exhibition encompasses work Leibovitz made on assignment as a professional photographer, as well as personal photographs of her family and close friends. "I don't have two lives," Leibovitz says. "This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it." The photographer's personal material, images that many are less familiar with, reflect Leibovitz's talents in a way that differs from her public career. They document the birth of her three daughters and many events involving her large family, including the death of her father.

Leibovitz's recognizable portraits of public figures include the pregnant Demi Moore, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer on Cumberland Island, George W. Bush with members of his Cabinet at the White House, Michael Moore at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, William S. Burroughs in Kansas, and Agnes Martin in Taos. Her assignment work includes searing reportage from the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s and a series of landscapes taken in the American West and in the Jordanian desert.

"This is a landmark exhibition of a major photographer's work," says SDMA executive director Derrick Cartwright. "Few contemporary photographers can rival Annie Leibovitz in terms of sheer popularity and immediate familiarity. Her imagery compels deeper attention to the critical dimensions of photojournalism and has earned Leibovitz the respect of both her subjects and her peers. We look forward to sharing this gifted artist's memorable craft with our visitors and we are proud to be the first West Coast venue for this major project."

Annie Leibovitz has been making witty, powerful images documenting American popular culture since the early 1970s, when her work began appearing in Rolling Stone. She became the magazine's chief photographer in 1973 and ten years later began working for Vanity Fair, and then Vogue, creating a legendary body of work. In addition to her magazine work, Leibovitz has created influential advertising campaigns for American Express, Gap, Givenchy, The Sopranos, and the Milk Board. The subject of several museum and gallery retrospectives, she was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000 and one of the thirty-five Innovators of Our Time by Smithsonian Magazine in 2005.


(above: Annie Leibovitz, My parents with my sisters Paula and Barbara and Paula's son Ross, Peter's Pond Beach, Wainscott, Long Island, 1992. © Annie Leibovitz)


From the SDMA Director

Few names in contemporary art enjoy the same level of recognition as Annie Leibovitz. Her lush color photographs of Hollywood celebrities, athletes, musicians, visual artists, and heads of state are well known to us from both popular media sources and from books. Like some legendary figures from throughout the history of photography-Matthew Brady in New York and Felix Tournachon (a.k.a. Nadar) in Paris, for example-the name Leibovitz has in our day become virtually synonymous with attention-grabbing portraiture of irrefutably mass appeal. In her own right, Leibovitz can claim credentials as both an artist and celebrity.

Opening this winter, Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990­2005 provides a comprehensive survey of the artist's public and private work with over 200 images. Visitors who are already familiar with her bold, often unconventional treatments of well-known sitters will not be disappointed with the exhibition. Demi Moore, Johnny Depp, Kate Moss, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Nicole Kidman, and Mick Jagger can all be found in the galleries.

One of the great surprises of this exhibition, however, is that it is not merely an accumulation of marquee portraiture for which Leibovitz is justly famous. The exhibition includes the full spectrum of her artistic practice. There are large-scale landscapes, family snapshots, and images of gripping personal significance. A Photographer's Life presents the first thorough investigation of how this artist combines her professional and personal worlds.

The SDMA galleries will become a fitting context for the study of Leibovitz's approach to representing creative individuals as they face the camera. In addition to the portraits of U.S. Presidents, rock stars, and Oscar winners, A Photographer's Life is well stocked with images that will be familiar to aficionados of contemporary high culture: the dancer Bill T. Jones soars gracefully in front of a stage backdrop, the controversial performance artist Karen Finley twists her nude body in a pose that self-consciously recalls a famous photograph by Edgar Degas, the American intellectual Susan Sontag stands beside the British painter Howard Hodgkin waiting for the vaporetto on a foggy day in Venice. These poignant works join other, still more unexpected images by Leibovitz, creating a memorably rich album that documents the photographer's firsthand encounters with fame and family, home and assignment, public exultation and private pain, birth, and death.

SDMA is the second venue for this internationally touring exhibition that opened in Brooklyn last October. The exhibition tour is accompanied by a 472-page, fully illustrated book of her photography, featuring hundreds of black-and-white and color photos, approximately 200 of which will be included in our presentation.

Derrick R. Cartwright
The Maruja Baldwin Director

(above: Annie Leibovitz, Susan Sontag, Petra, Jordan, 1994.© Annie Leibovitz)



Annie Leibovitz's witty, powerful portraits have been appearing on magazine covers for more than thirty years, and she is recognized as one of the most celebrated photographers of our time. She was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and spent her childhood on a succession of military bases. Her father was a career officer in the Air Force. While studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute she took night classes in photography, and in 1970 she began doing work for Rolling Stone magazine. Her first major assignment was for a cover story on John Lennon. She became Rolling Stone's chief photographer in 1973 and by the time she left the magazine, ten years later, she had shot one hundred and forty-two covers and published photo essays on scores of stories, including her memorable accounts of the resignation of Richard Nixon and of the 1975 Rolling Stones tour.

Leibovitz joined the staff of Vanity Fair in 1983 and in 1998 also began working for Vogue. In addition to her magazine editorial work, she has created influential advertising campaigns for American Express, the Gap, Givenchy, The Sopranos, and the Milk Board. She has published several books and exhibited widely, including at the International Center of Photography in New York and at the National Portrait Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

She is the recipient of many honors, including the Infinity Award in Applied Photography from the International Center of Photography and the Barnard College Medal of Distinction. She is a Commandeur in the French government's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2005, in a compilation of the forty top magazine covers of the past forty years by the American Society of Magazine editors, she was awarded both Number One (the photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono taken for Rolling Stone the day Lennon was shot) and Number Two (the pregnant Demi Moore for Vanity Fair). She has been designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress and one of thirty-five "innovators of our time" by Smithsonian Magazine.

Leibovitz lives in New York with her three children, Sarah, Susan, and Samuelle.


(above: Annie Leibovitz, Nicole Kidman, New York, 2003. © Annie Leibovitz)


Related Programs

In conjunction with Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005, running from February 10 to April 22, 2007, the San Diego Museum of Art is presenting an exciting assortment of programs, including insightful lectures, the spring edition of Culture & Cocktails, and a special film series.

For more information on SDMA's programs, please call (619) 696-1969. To purchase advance tickets, please call Ticketmaster at (619) 220-8497. Museum members receive the discounted price for each of the events listed. Programs and artists are subject to change.


Special Events

Culture & Cocktails
February 22, Thursday
6:00­8:00 p.m.
Experience SDMA's blockbuster exhibition, Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990­2005, in style at the next Culture & Cocktails. Guests can enhance their viewing pleasure with creative drinks, gallery tours, lively music, and a unique photo opportunity. Get priority entry privileges by purchasing tickets in advance at www.ticketmaster.com (a limited number of tickets are available; all Ticketmaster surcharges are waived).
Photo & Story Film Series
The San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Photographic Arts continue their ongoing film collaboration, this time highlighting two exhibitions currently on view: Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990­2005 at SDMA and Tell Me a Story: Narrative Photography Now at MoPA. Tickets to the films include admission to both museums through the Sunday following each film.
Thursdays, 7:00 p.m.
Museum of Photographic Arts, Fee
March 1
Rear Window (1954)
In this Alfred Hitchcock thriller, a wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced that one of them has committed murder.
March 8
Blow-Up (1966)
A photographer who is talented but aimless has photographed violence and pain without feeling any involvement. When he takes pictures of a couple in a park, he finds that he may have discovered a mystery, one that insists on involving him.
March 29
Walkabout (1971)
After being stranded in the Australian outback, two young children are forced to survive on their own. During their journey, they meet an Aborigine on his "walkabout," a ritualistic banishment from his tribe.
April 5
The Day I Became a Woman (2000)
Using an unconventional cinematic narrative, this film examines a day in the life of three Iranian women at different stages in their lives. Told through their perspectives, the film offers a glimpse into the issues facing women in modern-day Iran.
"Through the Lens: San Diego Photographers Take a Closer Look"
March 29, Thursday
6:00 p.m.
Free with museum admission
In conjunction with Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990­2005, renowned San Diego-based photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann will tour the galleries to share what he sees. Rittermann's work has been displayed in galleries and museums around the world and published in numerous books, catalogues, and magazines. His photographs are held in many corporate, public, and private collections, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, France.
Docent Guest Lecture: "Intimate Strangers-The Cult of Celebrity Photography"
March 2, Friday
10:00 a.m., James S. Copley Auditorium
Carol McCusker, Ph.D., curator of photography at MoPA, presents an illustrated lecture on the history of portrait photography in conjunction with SDMA's Annie Leibovitz exhibition.
Insight Gallery Talk: "Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990­2005"
March 8, Thursday, 6:00 p.m.
March 11, Sunday, 3:00 p.m.
Free with museum admission
Doug Burgess, SDMA docent, discusses this major traveling exhibition of nearly 200 photographs by one of today's most well-known photographers.
A Photographer's Life (UCSD Extension Course)
Wednesdays, March 7­28 (4-week class)
6:00 p.m.­8:15 p.m., Fee
Instructor: Craig Carlson
This course for adults surveys the history of photography, focusing on its aesthetic and technical developments from 1950 to today. Discussions will explore the importance of photojournalism, digital capture, and the ongoing evolution of photography as an art form. Tours of the Annie Leibovitz exhibition are included, as well as demonstrations illustrating Leibovitz's lighting style with electronic flash.
Teen Portfolio Workshop: Drawing and Painting from Photography
Saturdays, February 3­February 24, Ages 13­18
1:00 p.m.­4:00 p.m., Fee
Instructor: Elizabeth Wepsic
Working from images in Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990­2005, teens can learn how to take images from photographs and bring them to life on paper and canvas. This workshop is designed not only for students who are interested in developing a portfolio, but also for those who want to expand their training in foundation-level visual arts.


Working Checklist

To view the working checklist as of 11.28.06 pease click here


(above: Annie Leibovitz, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer, Cumberland Island, Georgia, 1990. © Annie Leibovitz)


Resource Library readers may also enjoy:

and this VHS video:

Annie Leibovitz: Celebrity Photographer is a portrait of the celebrated portrait photographer known for her famous subjects. Annie Leibovitz began her professional career at Rolling Stone and became Vanity Fair's first contributing photographer, and one of the highest paid photographers of our day. VHS/DVD. This 51 minute 1993 program produced by RM Arts; Middlemarch Films from the South Bank Show series, produced for London Weekend Television, contains nudity and explicit language and is directed by Rebecca Frayn.





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