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Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (DVD Review)

19 Oct, 2008 By: Holly J. Wagner

Annie Leibovitz

Street 10/28/08
$19.98 DVD
Not rated.

Most people know Annie Leibovitz only by her work, and many who know her work don’t know it’s hers — they just like those stunning Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair covers.

That’s far from all of her work, but some of her highest-profile and most controversial photos have appeared on those covers. She’s known especially for her celebrity portraits: the fall of President Richard Nixon; Princess Di in an unguarded moment; John Lennon just hours before his murder; Miley Cyrus looking too sexy for Hannah Montana.

In this documentary she discusses growing up in a home where family photos were revered, her first photo experiences in the Philippines (where her Air Force father was stationed during the Vietnam War), and studying art in San Francisco.

From there she became the photo editor for nascent Rolling Stone for a decade, meeting and photographing rising stars, musicians, literati, political figures, royalty, etc.

Her skill and the backing of iconic magazines granted her access to every echelon of pop culture, and she continues to surprise her fans and detractors with controversial and unique work.

Leibovitz shoots them as she sees them, using her personality to get close to subjects and her camera to reveal their inner truths. Many of those subjects tell us as much here. (Rock stars are so much more honest about unflattering truths!)

The contemporary, often black-and-white film footage alone is fascinating for anyone who reads People or Us Weekly. Ditto the photos that weren’t published near the time they were shot.

This is a chronicle of a chronicler, and true to form it’s still unfolding. It’s also a tribute to one of the great still-photographers of our age. We’re likely to see much more through Leibovitz’s lens, and this helps us appreciate how she captures so much in a little box.

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