Annie Leibovitz

An Interview with Annie Leibovitz


What makes a great photo?


The photograph itself doesn’t interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.




“That’s a very good question. I’ve sort of given up on that. You know, because I’m not too sure. When I was younger, I wanted so much to be Henri Cartier Bresson. I don’t do a “Decisive Moment.” It’s like, everyone’s already left and then I take the picture. I wanted to be Diane Arbus, and I don’t have an edge. I wanted to be edgy. I like to take pictures that will last a long time and for that person. I like to be there in the moment for that person.

So… I don’t have an answer for what is a great picture. I mean, I certainly rely a lot on composition and graphics. In my case, I think the work works because the power of the body of work. There are all kinds of ingredients that go into taking a photograph that I can like, but in my case, I definitely see it as being part of a bigger picture. A bigger story.”



There are all kinds of ingredients that go into taking a photograph that I can like, but in my case, I definitely see it as being part of a bigger picture. A bigger story.”

Quite often the people who end up shaping our lives creatively—photographers, artists, writers, musicians—are only recognized for the impact they left on us upon their death. When walking among us they’re nothing but mere mortals, whose work is often forgotten as the newest, the brightest, and the freshly exciting crowds our self conscious. 

The beauty of an artist still living is that their legend exists for a purpose–and can still be shared. On the eve of the release of her newest book, Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005 – 2016, Leibovitz is one such being. To take a breath and review her work—which spans over 30 years—is to recognize beauty still living among us. Annie’s unique ability lies in her own personal traits of humility. Some 35 years into her career, she bears no pretentiousness. Instead, there exists a childlike wonder of discovery. She still comments on the beauty of a backdrop and looks to the work of young photojournalists. Without knowing it, she’s a boundary pushing artist who quietly creates the most powerful of emotions within us—a human connection with the individuals who currently consume our celebrity-obsessed culture. 

Here, ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, in her own words:

“In the last couple years I’d been working on adding to the women’s project and that work was put into this book. I think it was primarily the biggest driver for getting this volume put together. There are extraordinary women, from Malala, and Kathleen Kennedy to Yoko Ono.”

“People don’t talk enough about how cool it is to get older, and to kind of know what you’re doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your work is gonna be better, or good. It just means you kind of know what you’re doing. And you can look back at your younger self and see that what you had when you were young is drive and energy. You know, I was obsessed with what I was doing.”

“I love books, and I love photography books. If you walk into my house, you’ll see walls of photography books that I’ve collected over the years. The book is such an important part of my life—it’s as important as doing my work.”

“It’s interesting to get older and to see the arcs of different moments. To be young and to have that drive and energy is so important, and not to be afraid that what you’re doing could be perceived as being sort of insane. But that’s what it takes. It takes obsession.”


“It takes obsession.”

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005 – 2016 (Phaidon) is available at Indigo.



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