Annie Leibovitz Pilgrimage
On Thursday I had the honor to see Annie Leibovitz at an event for her latest photo book, Pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is no doubt very different from her former photography books in content, but I also see it as a perfect continuity, focusing and emphasizing ideas that we first saw in her earlier works as a photographer.
Opening Pilgrimage for the very first time, I could not ignore the way that Photographer’s Life ends. The great landscape and objects shots that end Photographer Life symbolized to me both the blurred emotional state of the photographer, running away from all of the loss in her life, and at the same time, it also emphasized the power of the objects that remain in the afterlife.
Susan Sontag, Annie’s partner that died before Photographer’s Life was published, said once that the family album is what left in the end from every family. In some way, Annie created an after life family album of the American culture on which she grew up by objectifying her emotions through still life objects. From an actual family album to an album of a larger spiritual family, Photographer’s Life and Pilgrimage are deeply connected in concept, despite the very different content in the photographs and style. Annie demonstrates what photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once said, that when the artistic energy is pushing you to create, it doesn’t matter if the subject is a flower, a body or a face, the art will still be the same.
I asked Annie if the thinks that shooting the life paths of the long dead American culture heroes, the ones that shaped many aspects of American society, has to do with the lost of the closest ones in her own life and if her search of them can be seen through the images seen in Photographer’s Life. I believe she agreed with my thoughts.