American portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz was born in 1949 Connecticut. Her father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the USA Air Force, leading the family to move frequently; she took her first photographs while they were stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. Leibovitz’s artistic abilities began to shine through while at school, she went on to study painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, and continued to hone her camera skills while working in various jobs.
In 1970 she starting working as a photographer at Rolling Stone magazine, within three years she was named as the magazine’s Chief Photographer; by 1983 she had moved to Vanity Fair. During this decade other artists, notably Richard Avedon and Henri Cartier-Bresson, influenced Leibovitz. She observed that one could carve a successful commercial career alongside personal projects.
Significant milestones for the photographer include accompanying The Rolling Stones on their Tour of Americas ’75; photographing Joan Armatrading over four days for her To The Limit album cover in 1978; the 1991 iconic image of the then-pregnant actress Demi Moore, and her portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono – this image became one of the most famous Rolling Stone covers, as only hours after Leibovitz photographed the couple, Lennon was killed.
Leibovitz continued her portraiture photography for editorial and advertising campaigns, but during the Nineties began to focus on her personal endeavours more and more. Her work began to be exhibited in galleries and museums. In 1991 the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. mounted over 200 colour, and black and white works, an accompanying book was published, Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970-1990.
In 2006 the Brooklyn Museum was the first of many institutions to exhibit Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005; this exhibition, chronologically narrating her commercial and personal work side-by-side, toured museums around the world including The National Portrait Gallery, London in 2008.
As well as celebrities, Leibovitz had the chance to photograph British royalty in 2007, as the official portrait photographer for Queen Elizabeth II’s first state visit to America in 16 years. As the first American to be asked to make an official portrait of the royal, Leibovitz has spoken of the honour she felt.
Between 2009 and 2011 Leibovitz diversified her personal work in Pilgrimage, a very personal project. She decided to choose subjects that meant something to her individually, whether they are literal views of living spaces, sole objects, or landscapes. Leibovitz is a celebrated portrait photographer, but Pilgrimage contains no people – they are notes for portraits. In 2011 Hamiltons exhibited twenty-six works from the Pilgrimage series. This exhibition preceded the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibition held in 2012; the museum went on to acquire 64 works for its permanent collection.