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Annie Leibovitz at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum: Our time with the famous photographer

By: Katie Roberts

Named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in Washington, American photographer Annie Leibovitz amused Singapore’s media by taking her own photographs of the 60-strong crowd at the ArtScience Museum this week. We were all there  for a preview of Annie Leibovitz A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005, which opens on 18 April 2014.

The photography legend introduces us to her exciting exhibition 

Dressed in her trademark black and black-rimmed glasses, the 64 year old was candid and forthright as she delved into the background, thinking and staging behind many of her famous images. The exhibition has toured the world since 2006 and Leibovitz commented that it felt like a “trip back in time”. She remarked that her daughters, who appear in the exhibition as toddlers, are now aged nine and 13. 

Annie Leibovitz is one of America’s most celebrated photographers. She began her career as a staff photographer with rock music magazine Rolling Stone in 1970. At Vanity Fair, and later Vogue, she developed a large body of work —portraits of actors, directors, writers, musicians, athletes, politicians and business figures, as well as fashion photographs. She continues to push the boundaries, with the May 2014 cover of magazine Vanity Fair featuring a bare-chested Neil Patrick Harris adorned with snakes.

Annie Leibovitz explains how she photographed a reluctant Sidney Sherman

This exhibition, Annie Leibovitz A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005, features almost 200 photographs from her personal and professional collection. Portraits of well-known figures, including actors and artists such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Jamie Foxx, the pregnant Demi Moore, Scarlett Johansson, Nicole Kidman and Brad Pitt are on display.

Commenting on the infamous Time cover featuring a naked, pregnant Demi Moore, Leibovitz said: “It relaxed taboos on being pregnant and now has been emulated throughout the world. It was a sensational cover, and had an extraordinary impact”. But now it’s small things about the cover image that “drive her crazy”, including the diamond earring and ring Demi wears, which Leibovitz would have removed. But she acknowledges the tension between the demands of commercial work and creativity.

Of all the photographs, she says her favourite is probably a candid black and white close-up of her ageing mother, but she admits her mother doesn’t like it. Pausing in front of the photograph, she says people frequently comment: “Oh you captured the soul of that person”. To which Leibovitz responds: “No, you can only do that if you know them very, very well. There’s no time to move in with people for three or six months to develop that relationship!” The image is included in the book Women.

Annie Leibovitz A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005 is on show at the ArtScience Museum from April 18 to Oct 19.

Viewing a wall of personal photographs including shots of her children and close family 

Interested in Portraiture Photography?
Leibovitz’s advice to photographers – which is advice she once received herself and continues to follow – is “always look back. Stop, look back, and look at your work to improve it.”

Photography enthusiasts, especially those with a keen interest in portraiture photography, can gain a better understanding of the different techniques and approaches to capturing the perfect portrait by signing up to the course below.

From June to October 2014, seven weekend courses (3pm–6pm on Saturdays and Sundays) will be conducted by Steven Yee, Associate Faculty Lecturer at SIM University and a Fellow of The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. Each weekend session includes a practical workshop with photo critique, a theory class and a facilitated discussion – while viewing the works of Annie Leibovitz. $200. Details from ArtScience Museum.