Don’t let Annie Leibovitz’s financial woes fool you: she’s still got some sway (apparently). Yes, despite her recently acquired taste for vaseline-rubbed lenses and an overzealous lust for photoshop, Leibovitz’s recent show at the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art is breaking records – and in a hurry.
But first, let’s all stare at this rapturous image of Iggy Pop and let it remind us all of what this photographer was once all about: the show-stopping portrait.
Leibovitz’s career took off in the 1970′s when her work was featured in Rolling Stone magazine. Since then, her iconic work continues to be featured in Rolling Stone, and is consistently featured in Vanity Fair and US Vogue, as well as private and public exhibitions. This Sydney show follows a record-breaking tour of work Leibovitz hand-picked for exhibition, and marks important moments in the artists life including family births and deaths, but also includes (and what is sure to be the big draw) (in)famous portraits of celebrities throughout her career.
According to the MCA, the Leibovitz exhibition is the most popular ticketed exhibition ever presented there. At twelve weeks since its opening in November, and only half-way through its run, Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005 has attracted 85,118 visitors. Remarkably, attendances have peaked at nearly 2,000 people a day. Which is quite remarkable, really.
And while I feel her work has become so commercial, so overwrought with digital editing and manipulation that her work boarders on ‘digital art’ or ‘new media’ rather than photography. And while I may offend some with my distaste for such 21st Century dealings, it saddens me to see a woman who created this:
A veritable renaissance-reminiscent masterpiece, complete with a mastery of chiaroscuro, perfect positioning and a color palate to die for…to then create the photoshop of horrors that is this:
What? The fuck is going on here?! The walls don’t line up. Go ahead. Follow the molding on the righthand side all the way back behind January Jones. See that? See how it just…ends? And gets caught up with some other thing that is behind her? Yeah. The lighting is completely off. The perspective is totally bizarre – I’m almost positive she shot these two people separate and just ‘shopped them in together. Which make it utter shit.
How does she go from this:
A stunning portrait of Demi Moore for the cover of Vanity Fair. Shocking at first, because apparently noone had ever seen a naked woman, or a pregnant woman, or a naked pregnant woman, but now it is one of the most iconic images of pregnancy in pop culture. Women since this photograph have been miming their own Demi-style pregnancy photo shoots – all because of Leibovitz’s touch.
And from that, to this:
>sigh< Honestly? Is this even happening? How did this monstrosity make is pass her minions and not end up on the photoshop trash bin-cutting-room floor? I can’t even. Let’s move on.
I give her a lot of shit, though by this exhibitions turnout it is obvious that there are many people who not only support Leibovitz, but see the use of digital tools/manipulation as both a natural evolution of the photographic process, but even as a medium unto itself. I guess I’m a selective old biddy. I’m resistant to change…sometimes. Perhaps I’d be more ok with her work if the manipulation wasn’t so glaringly obvious? Or if it was even relatively good?
With an exhibtion ranging from 1990-2005, it seems probable that some of these photoshop of horrors will end up in the show, though I’m willing to bet there are a number of brilliant, breath-taking portraits that make an appearance as well. And for just a glimpse of those works, I would fly all the way around the world to see this exhibition.
And the stunning beaches. I would also fly across the world for the legendary Australian beaches. And maybe even the Thunder from Down Under. That’s a real thing there, right?
I kid! Sort of…