Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CI 15: Image Critique (Annie Liebovitz)

I had the pleasure of being informally introduced to the photographer Annie Liebovitz today. Of course, most of us have heard of her before, but I was unfamiliar with her scope of work, her personality and character and the winding path this career has taken her. I caught but a glimpse of that in the documentary "Life Through a Lens" today and left feeling very intrigued.

As I began searching through her images, it became clear that I am definitely a fan of her style and approach to photographing 'life' and the people she encounters.  I found it challenging to select only one photograph to write about that interested me. There were so many! I finally narrowed it down to one image that immediately caught my eye as it did not seem to "fit" into her familiar style of images; it literally stood out. But in recollecting on what I learned through her interviews in the documentary, I would say it is a very personal and meaningful memory to Annie.

This is a photograph of her friend, lover and collaborator of 15 years, Susan Sontag in Petra, Jordan, whom passed away in 2004. She faces away from the camera, a tiny figure dwarfed by a mammoth cave opening, outside which we can see an ancient building facade. Waiting...wondering (perhaps) to step out. It’s a complex and pensive shot, both inside and outside, natural and man-made, populated and yet oddly empty. There is a rawness and an unguarded feeling in this image. Susan was obviously one of the most important and influential relationships Annie had in her life and I think the composition portrays this well.

The high contrast exposure which encompasses both strong vertical and diagonal lines, all leads our eye to her subject. I find it intriguing and ironic that in this grandiose scene, Susan is portrayed to be a very small single point of interest in the composition. Perhaps it reflects her unpretentious attitude towards the world.  From what I gather, she encouraged Annie to pursue the moral obligation in her work, often encouraging her to get back to her root visions. To look at the "bigger picture" so to speak, and make 'meaningful' photographs. I feel the layered and textured cave walls emulate this depth and complexity very nicely. The strongest element in this image is of course the vertical highlight area that bold takes us right to Susan. Beautiful!