Annie Leibovitz takes us to “Work”

Fans of famed out photographer Annie Leibovitz can now get a rare glimpse into her creative process with her new book, Annie Leibovitz At Work.

In the book, Leibovitz writes at length about the genesis of some of her favorite photographs, beginning with Richard Nixon‘s resignation, and spanning a tour with the Rolling Stones, the John Lennon and Yoko Ono shoot, Demi Moore, Patti Smith and concluding with Barack Obama‘s campaign. Along the way she also weighs in on fashion photography, lighting, digital cameras, and portraiture.

Leibovitz is currently on a book tour, and on a recent stop in Harvard Square she explained, "I was trying to find my voice with this book… And the more funny it got, the better it felt.”

Leibovitz, who was not formally educated in photography, told that her latest endeavor did not turn out exactly the way she’d thought it would.

"When I began working on my new book, I thought it would be a pamphlet of maybe forty pages or so. I intended to take ten of my photographs and dissect them. They didn’t have to be my most famous pictures, just pictures that I cared about. But as I began going through the material I realized that I might as well be more ambitious. I started to think that I would try to answer every single question anyone has ever asked about how my work is done. To defuse the mystery, and the misconceptions. To explain that it’s nothing more than work. And learning how to see.

So my 40-page pamphlet became a 240-page book with over a hundred photographs in it. It is written for someone like the person I was at the beginning of my career, when I was in art school. A young me. I didn’t know which road I would take. Whether it would be a commercial road, a magazine road, an artistic road, a journalistic road. It’s written for that person. Someone who is interested in photography, but isn’t sure how they want to use it."

In keeping with the spirit of sharing the wealth of her vast knowledge and experience, Leibovitz took questions about her work from readers in a recent Time magazine interview.

In the article, "10 Questions for Annie Leibovitz," readers from around the globe wrote in with questions about everything from sexism in the world of photography, being "difficult" to work with, and the allure of celebrity photography.

One Time reader asked, "What do you see in that ‘aha’ moment that people talk about? Is it the subject, the composition or something else?" Leibovitz replied, "Well, it has changed over the years. For example, John and Yoko, I only took a few frames. You knew it was good. It had form and strength, and it was simple, and it told a story. How do you know it’s good? The subject usually says, ‘Aha!’–or just gets up and walks away."

Yoko Ono and John Lennon

In that same article, Leibovitz also acknowledged the controversy around her now infamous shoot of Miley Cyrus for Vanity Fair. She told Time, "The Miley picture was a beautiful, strong, simple picture. I think it’s actually sort of innocent on some level. She loved taking that picture, and she was ready to take that picture. It’s just that her audience wasn’t ready. I think that if there was any mistake made, it’s probably that she shouldn’t have posed for Vanity Fair."