This paper presents an interview with the famous portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz. The interview aims at gaining more knowledge about the photographer in terms of career, style and technique in photography, as well as, her perception about the current and future trends in portrait photography. Annie Leibovitz was chosen as the preferred portrait photographer for this interview, as she is one of the most sought after photographers in the industry today. Accordingly, her knowledge and professionalism in portrait photography makes her the most suitable candidate for the interview.
Interview with Annie Leibovitz
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Annie Leibovitz?
Leibovitz: Annie is a third-generation American, coming from a homogenous Jewish Background. My late father worked as a lieutenant colonel, and my late mother as a dance
instructor. I come from a family of six children, I am the third born in the family, and I have three children, Sarah, Samuelle, and Susan (Somerstein 1). I am also a professional Portrait Photographer
Interviewer: Why and how did you become a photographer?
Leibovitz: I became a professional photographer because of my artistic interests that I first
discovered as a little girl. I took my very first photos during the Vietnam War, and since then I have been hooked on photography (Somerstein 1). I became a professional photographer back in 1970, when the Rolling Stones magazine looked at my work and decided to sign me on as their photographer.
Interviewer: What does Photography mean to you?
Leibovitz: Photography is more than just a career for me, it is a passion, a way to relate with
the world. Photography is my life. When I take a photograph, I feel an essence of communication between me and the person am taking the photograph of. It is a new learning experience for me every time.
Interviewer: How long have you been a photographer?
Leibovitz: I have been a photographer since I was born. But professionally, I have worked as
a photographer since 1970 to date. That equals to about 4 decades now (Somerstein 1).
Interviewer: Most photographers and artists claim that it takes quite some time before getting
their “Big Break”. How long did it take you to “make it” in the industry?
Leibovitz: I cannot give you the actual date for when I “made it” but because my first
publicly accepted photograph was that of John Lennon during my time at Rolling stones, it would be safe to say that I “made it” in the 1980s, which was ten years after I started working professionally. So it took me around ten years before I got my big break.
Interviewer: How would you define your photography? What kind of photographs do you
Leibovitz: I define my photography as iconic photography (Somerstein 1). This is because I center on taking
portrait photographs of those considered as the rich and famous in society.
Interviewer: With all other photography options available, Why did you particularly settle for
Leibovitz: Portrait photography has always interested me from time in memorial. This is
because, when I like something or someone, I take a photo of them. To me portrait photography is the best way to get to know people better, to communicate with them, and learn more about them. Portrait photography is reality, which is what I want to experience when I take photographs
Interviewer: Who were/are your biggest influences?
Leibovitz: In terms of following my dream, my biggest influence was my family. In relation
to photography, photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Frank Robert were my biggest influence (Somerstein 1). They have a way of using their photography as a toll for personal reportage. The photographs they take are merely a report of what is, no additions, no subtractions, just a graphical representation of reality.
Interviewer: We all know that you have worked for famous magazines such as the Rolling
Stones magazine and Vanity Fair. They have all been big projects for you and you have executed each project remarkably. Now, am curious, how do you get work? Do your clients look for you? Or are you the one who looks for them?
Leibovitz: In the beginning, I had to look for clients, I had to sell my projects to the industry
and for that reason, I needed to gather as many customers as possible for my work. I still do up to date but at the moment, it is the clients who come looking for me. They say I am good at what I do and they want me to take a portrait photograph of themselves
Interviewer: Marketing is a great tool for business especially in this industry. I know that most
artists and photographers need to market themselves to their customers if they intend to sell their pieces of work. How do you market yourself?
Leibovitz: At the moment, I don’t really market myself because my work has become
familiar in the industry and most people now recognize my pictures from a distance. However, before I built a name for myself in the industry, I had to go out and market myself. Literally. I would walk up to clients, present my ideas to them, then wait for a phone call. Luckily I landed myself a job as a magazine photographer, and I did not need to do that anymore
Interviewer: You have been working as a portrait photographer for quite a number of years
now. You are one of the few photographers who have managed to keep themselves in the industry for a long time. What motivates and keeps you motivated to continue?
Leibovitz: My love for photography motivates me to continue working in the industry. Every
new photograph I take acts as an inspiration for the next photograph I will take
(Somerstein 1). When I look at my photographs, I am amazed at what I see, which, in turn, motivates me to take more photographs hoping that the next will be similar, if not better, than the previous
Interviewer: Having looked at some of your pieces of work, like the portrait of John Lennon,
portrait of Whoopi Goldberg and my personal favorite, portrait of Lance Armstrong, the multifaceted nature of your photography is evident. Some of your photographs appear hard to take with the basic camera. Do you mind telling us the kind of equipment you use during your photo shoots?
Leibovitz: I simply use a Camera. Nothing complicated
Interviewer: Do you have a studio? Where is it located? And how important do you believe
that having a studio for a photographer like yourself is?
Leibovitz: Yes I do have a studio, actually I have a number of studios in the states, New
York, San Francisco and the rest. Having a studio for a photographer is as important as having a hand calculator for the accountant. Much as one can calculate without it, the accountant still needs to go back to using it
Interviewer: Do you do more location or studio work?
Interviewer: Staying current has been an issue for artists, especially photographers and most
have found themselves phased out from the 21st century. The trends keep changing, for example, everything has gone digital nowadays. As a photographer who has been around for four decades, how do you stay current? And do you struggle at this?
Leibovitz: Yes I do struggle with staying current. Most people do not believe this, as they
claim that my photographs seem to meet the ‘current’ requirements. My strategy for staying current is quite simple staying true to myself. I care more about taking pictures than being current, and surprisingly, that make me current
Interviewer: How has Digital changed business?
Leibovitz: For some it has, and for others, like myself it has not. The biggest change that
digital has brought in photography lies entirely on editing. One can take a photography in the studio and edit it to look like they were in a desert. I am not a big fan of digital photographs and I believe that computer photography is not photography at all (Somerstein 1).
Interviewer: In conclusion, have you ever considered taking a self-portrait of yourself?
Leibovitz: I would love to do a portrait of myself but I think taking a self-portrait is very
complex and difficult (Somerstein 1). I am so used to being behind the camera and taking the photographs that being in front of the camera is a bit scary for me.
Somerstein, Rachel. Annie Leibovit: Life Through a Lens. pbs.org, 27 October 2008. Web. 21