Annie Leibovitz. The first years 1970 – 1983 and the land of wonders. Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong
Over four decades, Annie Leibovitz’s unique photographic language has integrated – and advanced – the evolution of the medium as a force of artistic creation. From January 6, Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong will present ‘Annie Leibovitz. The Early Years 1970-1983 and Wonderland â, a comprehensive exhibition of photographic prints selected by the artist from his early years to be seen alongside selected iconic fashion images from the past two decades. Leibovitz’s prolific output and her inventive approach to photography itself distinctly positions her in the traditions and trajectory of American portraiture during the twentieth century.
These rarely seen images of Leibovitz’s early years trace the photographer’s development from the start of her career, capturing the dramatic cultural and political changes of the 1970s and early 1980s. During these years, Leibovitz became an avatar the changing cultural role of photography as an artistic medium. These powerful images reveal his unique ability to merge the tactics of portraiture and photojournalism with a deep humanism.
The exhibition also includes a selection of custom-made fashion photographs of Leibovitz which, in the artist’s words, “revealed surprising paths to portraiture”, offering new insight into the depth and breadth of Leibovitz’s unique artistic vision through fashion, landscape and interior paintings. In this body of work, Leibovitz uses visual references drawn from a wide range of sources – from literature and film to the history of photography and the long tradition of formal portraiture in art history. .
About the exhibition
Annie Leibovitz bought her first camera in the summer of 1968, after her freshman year at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1970, while still a student, she approached “Rolling Stone” magazine – just three years after its creation – with some of her photographs. Two of the images were published and she quickly embarked on what would become a symbiotic relationship between the young photographer and a magazine that became famous for reflecting the American zeitgeist. Hauser & Wirth’s exhibit begins with photographs taken during this formative period in Northern California and is punctuated with images of the Bay Area landscape and photographs taken on trips often made by Leibovitz between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The exhibition of works taken during his thirteen years at ‘Rolling Stone’ blurred the lines between celebrity and civilian, interviewer and interviewee, artist and subject, dissolving the line separating Leibovitz from his subjects.
‘The Early Years’ features footage of great political moments in the United States, including the 1972 presidential campaign, which she covered with writer Hunter S. Thompson. Leibovitz’s low-key lens involves both the photographer and her peers as important actors and contributors to events. In a poignant photograph taken the day Richard Nixon resigned as president, his camera records his helicopter taking off from the White House lawn.
Likewise, during a trip with the Rolling Stones to document their tour of the Americas in the summer of 1975, Leibovitz entered the group’s world to such an extent that only her camera reminded her of her identity. In one image, a group of frantic fans stormed a chain link fence outside a stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Rolling Stones were performing. It was Leibovitz’s distinct ability to immerse himself in varied environments that enabled direct engagement with his subjects, revealing their true, honest and perhaps most vulnerable selves.
By the late 1970s she had started using a medium format camera that produced square photographs. The camera was suitable for shooting portraits with strobe light. Leibovitz staged planned portraits based on a simple idea often arising from a deeply personal collaboration with his subjects. Bearing witness to an eerie level of intimacy and an uncommon depth of engagement, this relationship can be seen in one of his most famous photographs, in which a naked John Lennon hugs Yoko Ono. The portrait, made on December 8, 1980, was to serve as an intimate emblem of the couple’s relationship. When Lennon was killed just hours after the photo was taken, she became a powerful visual memorial.
The uniqueness of Leibovitz’s vision, which included the combination of portraiture with photojournalism that has captured historical and cultural touchstones across the United States and abroad, places him in a lineage of some of his personal heroes. – artists like Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon, both innovators of their mediums. Influences like Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson inspired Leibovitz to turn the tide of the reception of photography. Combining Frank’s highly personal and emotional photographic reporting style with the surreal and even sculptural fine art photography of Cartier-Bresson, Leibovitz embraced his own inclination for personal journalism.
The exhibition continues on the lower level of the gallery, with photographic prints selected by the artist from his acclaimed work of the past two decades, including key images from Leibovitz’s first sewing session. in Paris for “Vogue”, which starred Kate Moss and Sean Combs in a visual tale straddling two dramatic worlds: rap culture and haute couture. In scenes from another ambitious shoot for “Vogue”, Leibovitz paid homage to the “Wizard of Oz”. Created in collaboration with magazine fashion editor Grace Coddington, this series starred actress Keira Knightley as Dorothy Gale, starring famous contemporary artists Francesco Clemente with Alba Clemente, Chuck Close, John Currin, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Brice Marden, Kiki Smith and Kara Walker taking on the roles of central characters in L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s novel in 1900 and the screen adaptation of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1939. This series distinctly positions Leibovitz in a specific lineage of formal portraits in which artists have assumed historical or literary figures and dressed in costume, alluding to invisible aspects of their identity or reflecting on their societal contexts.
About the book
Clothing and accessories played a vital role in both the formal construction of the image and in the transmission of personality throughout Leibovitz’s work, a fact she reflects on in her preface to the new book. “Anne Leibovitz: Wonderland”, published by Phaidon on November 18. She writes: âLooking at my work, I see that fashion has always been there. It’s the driving force behind a portrait – whether it’s Jerry Garcia in a black T-shirt, or Patti Smith in the much-imitated style that has endured for decades, or the Rolling Stones … Fashion plays a role in it. arrangement of everything. , but photography always comes first for me. The photography is the most important part. And the photography is so big that it can encompass portraiture, reportage, family photographs, fashion. There are so many ways to use photographyâ¦ I never thought of myself as a fashion photographer, but my work for âVogueâ fueled the fire for a type of photography that I might not have explored. otherwise. “
About the artist
Leibovitz is the recipient of numerous honors. In 2006, she was appointed Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters. She received the International Center of Photography’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the first Creative Excellence Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors, the Centenary Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in London, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art Award to Distinguished Women in the Arts, the Wexner Prize and the Prince of Asturias Prize for Communication and Human Sciences. She has been named a Living Legend by the United States Library of Congress. She lives in New York with her three children, Sarah, Susan and Samuelle.
Several collections of Leibovitz’s works have been published. They include âAnnie Leibovitz: Photographsâ (1983); ‘Annie Leibovitz: Photographs 1970-1990,’ (1991); ‘Olympic Portraits (1996); Women ‘(1999), in collaboration with Susan Sontag; âAmerican Musicâ (2003); âThe life of a photographer, 1990-2005â, (2006); âAnnie Leibovitz at Workâ (2008; revised edition 2018), a first-person commentary on her career; and âPilgrimageâ (2011); ‘Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016,’ (2017); ‘Annie Leibovitz: The Early Years, 1970-1983,’ (2018); ‘Annie Leibovitz: Wonderland,’ (2021).