Sunday, 13 May 2012

Through Annie's Lens

Steve Martin, Beverly Hills, California (1981)
Steve Martin wears a white tuxedo with black paint strokes all over it as he poses in front of a large painting with the same haphazard black paint strokes.

Lauren Hutton smiles at the camera, revealing her body that is covered in mud.

David Bryne makes an eco fashion statement wearing a jacket made of leaves and trousers that look like wood.

Angelina Jolie is naked in a bath showing off the tattoos on her back and looking at the viewer with her sultry pout.

These are only a tiny fraction of the millions of photographs Annie Leibovitz has taken over her 40-year career and now we in Hong Kong finally get to see them for the first time at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery on Hollywood Road.

Nicole Kidman, New York (2003)
The exhibition revolves around the theme of power in public and private spheres. A good example is two pictures of Nicole Kidman. The first was taken in 1997 when Kidman's career was taking off to stratospheric heights. Wearing a black top and underwear, she poses in a bedroom sitting on the bed, her big blue eyes staring into the camera, with her original red hair. She looks annoyed, uneasy, feeling as if her space is being intruded upon.

But nearby is another portrait taken in 2003, with Kidman extremely polished and glamorous in a beaded full-length gown that flares out with a large train. She is poised and elegant, sure of herself and very blond. 

Leibovitz is our generation's photographer, capturing pop icons and celebrities of our time in interesting poses and situations that enhance their personality. Her portraits are extremely accessible and in many cases groundbreaking such as her Vanity Fair cover of a pregnant Demi Moore posing nude, or Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub filled with milk.

One would think after many decades of hard work she would be slowing down, but she has three young children, including seven-year-old twins. Leibovitz's private life also included a relationship with Susan Sontag that started in the 1980s until the latter's death in 2004.

However Leibovitz made headlines in February 2009 when she revealed she needed to borrow $15.5 million and for collateral put up several houses including rights to all her photographs. At the time The New York Times noted, "One of the world's most successful photographers essentially pawned every snap of the shutter she had made or will make until the loans are paid off."

Angelina Jolie
The fact that she was willing to give up rights to her work showed that despite having lucrative contracts, she did not have a good grasp of financial management and very desperate. Later that year a financial arrangement was settled that still gave her control over the rights of her work.

So basically Leibovitz is still working actively at the age of 62 for financial reasons, but we are glad she is continuing to take photographs for us to enjoy.

Annie Leibovitz
May 10-June 17
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
57-59 Hollywood Road
2581 9678

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