I just turned 43 and honestly, I approached it with some reservations. You see, my Dad passed away at 44 years old (when I was only 13) and that has impacted my life tremendously. Since the day I passed my 40th, I’ve been very keenly aware of my own mortality and along with that, the compulsion to leave a legacy, to make a difference, has been increasing.
On my birthday last week, Angie arranged a surprise visit to one of the world’s most iconic photographers, Annie Leibovitz’s exhibition. As an avid photographer I’ve heard much of her and know of some of her prominent works. No stranger to photography exhibitions, I was looking forward to see, apart from some of her celebrated works, other technical details as well as her own thoughts about her works.
Annie Leibovitz A Photographer’s Life 1990 – 2005 provides a unified narrative of Annie’s private life against the backdrop of her public image. At the heart of the exhibition is her personal memoir, documenting a particular time frame within her life, including the loss of close relations, birth and childhood of her three daughters, family vacations, reunions, and close friends.
Annie brings her unique ‘journalistic’ style of photography where she captures celebrities and politicians (fictitious or otherwise) in their natural setting and environment instead of relying on props and lighting. These personal shots were accentuated by her narratives which give us a rare glimpse into their personal lives. Many of Annie’s celebrated photos which made the cover of Vanity Fair were at the exhibition (including the much talked about shot of Queen Elizabeth II, the nude shot of the very pregnant Demi Moore and other Hollywood celebrities like Scarlett Johansson, Nicole Kidman and Brad Pitt). But what really resonated with me were the smaller, more intimate shots of family and close friends – shots which were largely nondescript moments: of births, family swims, BBQs, lounging around the living room etc…juxtaposed with poignant shots of the same family members and close friends in their last days including her own father’s.
Photo credit: Annie Leibovitz
Leonardo diCaprio, Tejon Ranch, Lebec, California, 1997 © Annie Leibovitz from A Photographer’s Life 1990 – 2005 Courtesy of Vanity Fair
While some paint and others write, Annie Leibovitz uses her photography skill to ‘shoot’. Interlaced with her personal achievements, triumphs and struggles, the exhibition which draws on the moments that impacted her life between 1990 – 2005, shows us that beneath all our personae and professional identities, we are all someone’s son / daughter / parent / companion. We are all humans sharing similar struggles, celebrating similar triumphs, narrating similar stories albeit in different forms.
As a parent and a spouse, a son and a sibling, I wonder how my life would pan out in an exhibition of similar nature. Being an avid photographer, this idea is not too far fetched. Being there with my wife, walking through the exhibits, with my 6 year-old napping in a stroller which she will outgrow soon (on my birthday no less!), I’m well aware that my life is also a collection of snapshots of sorts, of myself, of my loved ones yet I can’t help but wonder how will my memoir look like when it’s time for me to say goodbye? In a different twist, how will the snapshots of those whom I love pan out with me within?
I may be biased but Annie Leibovitz A Photographer’s Life 1990 – 2005 is an exhibit everyone must experience because, simply put, it is an exhibition of everyone’s lives…snapshots of life’s triumphs, trials, celebrations and tears which invokes in us the question: what will your life look like, in photos?
What a great surprise for your birthday! We managed to catch the exhibition when we were back in Singapore recently, and really enjoyed the photos. I was particularly moved by the series of photos of her father’s and Susan’s illnesses and last days. My husband is a photography buff, so he was very inspired by her work. We ended up getting two photography books at the gift shop after that!