For nearly 40 years, fans of pop culture have viewed the world through the lens of Anna-Lou Leibovitz's camera. Commonly known as Annie, this portrait photographer's life has been anything but common. On Dec. 2 her fans lined up at the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State, to hear her describe what she's been up to. In her soon-to-be-released book, Annie Leibovitz at Work, she chronicles her career to date.
The turnout to hear this living legend far exceeded all expectations. The library's largest auditorium was filled to capacity, as were two overflow rooms, where attendees watched the presentation on large screens. In addition to the 650 people who were lucky enough to get in, there were a few hundred who were turned away at the door. And, for those who did make it in, copies of her book became scarce all too quickly.
The presentation consisted essentially of a slide show featuring her work as she narrated from each chapter and then ending in a question and answer session. What the monologue lacked in luster was far outweighed by the scope of it's content. This single mother of three has immortalized images of everything from the Queen of England to war torn Eastern Europe.
In encouraging aspiring photographers, of which there were plenty in the audience, Leibovitz said she finds portrait photography liberating. She said, "You know what you want when you go in but that ultimately a photo shoot is about play and frequently unpredictable, the picture itself often a surprise." Additionally, she passed along advice that she was given. Essentially, try to accept that you are not going to get every picture: "You are attached to this machine and its timing."
The notoriously private Leibovitz only mentioned her family ( including late partner Susan Sontag ) briefly, when responding to a question about photos she currently has in her house.
When asked what her favorite photo is, in the past she often skirted the question. However now she says it is a portrait of her mother taken when her mother was in her mid-70s. Leibovitz said, "She [ her mother ] was looking at me as if the camera were not there." Perhaps for her mom all she saw was her daughter, Anna-Lou, looking at her. For the rest of us, Annie has become an icon in her own right as part of the pop culture she records for a living.