If one were to go through a stack of Vanity Fair and Vogue back issues pulled from the past 30 years, there isn’t a single one without an Annie Leibovitz photograph. After cutting her teeth as Rolling Stone’s first chief photographer and documenting the 1975 American tour of the Rolling Stones, Leibovitz moved on to shoot some of the most iconic portraits that have ever been printed in color: a very pregnant and very nude Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991; 2008’s controversial spreads, namely the “OH DEAR LORD SHE’S NAKED!” shot of Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair and the Gisele/LeBron cover of Vogue; and finally, the cover that made her career, an intimate, intertwined portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that was taken merely hours before Lennon was shot in front of the Dakota.
Leibovitz and her lens have built her career on breaking down the barriers of celebrity through these impassioned, borderline cinematic photographs—which is why Pilgrimage is such a fascinating body of work, as there isn’t a single recognizable face, or any face at all, in its contained images.
A collection of photographs shot between 2009 and 2011, Pilgrimage, according to Leibovitz, “taught me to see again.”
Instead of scandalous tableaus featuring names lifted from movie posters and headlines, Pilgrimage—once a book, now a traveling exhibit—sets its focus on found objects belonging to names drawn from history books and the fabric of American identity: Annie Oakley’s shooting target, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s hat, a dress of Emily Dickinson’s, Henry David Thoreau’s bed frame from his Walden house.
It’s interesting: Annie Leibovitz has a gift for capturing beautiful, creative, famous people in moments that portray them as paradoxically god-like and vulnerably human.
With a contrasting body of work such as Pilgrimage, Leibovitz is able to exercise this same ability in paying tribute to shades of themselves these icons have left behind.
ANNIE LEIBOVITZ: PILGRIMAGE
OPENS THU 6.27.12
THE CONCORD MUSEUM
53 CAMBRIDGE TURNPIKE
OPEN 9AM-5PM SUN-WED
ALL AGES/$10; $8 STUDENTS