Photographer. Born Anna-Lou Leibovitz, on October 2, 1949, in Westbury, Connecticut. She was one of the six children born to Sam, an Air Force lieutenant, and Marilyn Leibovitz, a modern dance instructor. In 1967, Leibovitz enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, where (although initially studying painting) she developed a love for photography.
After living briefly on an Israeli kibbutz, Leibovitz returned to the U.S., in 1970, and applied for a job with the start-up rock music magazine Rolling Stone. Impressed with Leibovitz’s portfolio, editor Jann Wenner offered her a job as a staff photographer. Within two years, the 23-year-old Leibovitz was promoted to chief photographer—a title she would hold for the next 10 years. Her position with the magazine afforded her the opportunity to accompany the Rolling Stones band on their 1975 international tour.
While with Rolling Stone, Leibovitz developed her trademark technique, which involved the use of bold primary colors and surprising poses. Wenner has credited her with making many Rolling Stone covers collector’s items, most notably an issue that featured a nude John Lennon curled around his fully clothed wife, Yoko Ono. Taken on December 8, 1980, Leibovitz’s photo of the former Beatle was shot just hours before his death.
In 1983, Leibovitz left Rolling Stone and began working for the entertainment magazine Vanity Fair. With a wider array of subjects, Leibovitz’s photographs for Vanity Fair ranged from presidents to literary icons to teen heartthrobs. To date, a number of Vanity Fair covers have featured Leibovitz’s stunning—and often controversial—portraits of celebrities. Demi Moore (very pregnant and very nude) and Whoopi Goldberg (half-submerged in a bathtub of milk) are among the most remembered actresses to grace the cover in recent years. Known for her ability to make her sitters become physically involved in her work, one of Leibovitz’s most famous portraits is of the late artist Keith Haring, who painted himself like one of his canvases for the photo.
During the late 1980s, Leibovitz started to work on a number of high-profile advertising campaigns. The most notable was the American Express “Membership” campaign, for which her portraits of celebrity cardholders, like Elmore Leonard, Tom Selleck, and Luciano Pavarotti, earned her a 1987 Clio Award.
In 1991, Leibovitz’s collection of over 200 color and black-and-white photographs were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Later that year, a book was published to accompany the show titled Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970-1990. In 1996, Leibovitz was chosen as the official photographer of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. A compilation of her black-and-white portraits of American athletes, including Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson, were published in the book Olympic Portraits (1991).
The Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, 2009. Photographer Annie Leibovitz