I'm not very good at new year's resolutions, but I do have one, and it's to read more. Most of my life I've been a voracious reader, but since becoming a freelance photographer and going into business for myself, I just haven't managed to find the time (or energy) to read much. This is something I want to change this year, and I'm off to a good start. One of my Christmas presents was the book "Annie Liebovitz At Work" and I have already devoured it.
Looking back on her career, it's incredible to imagine all the pivotal moments she has photographed, from the Rolling Stones on tour, to Hunter S Thompson on the campaign trail, to Nixon leaving the Whitehouse after his resignation, and most incredibly, this very famous photograph of John and Yoko, which was taken mere hours before his murder.
The stories behind the photographs are fascinating. I loved the one about Meryl Streep, who had just become a celebrity and was uncomfortable with all the attention. She didn't want to be photographed, and, in her words, didn't want to be "anybody". Just what a photographer wants to hear during a session. Annie told her she didn't have to be anyone, and came up with the idea of the whiteface. I think that this ability of hers to respond creatively to what is happening in the moment is what makes her such a great photographer.
It was also interesting to read her take on digital technology, which she has fully embraced, and which allowed for the creation of the photograph below. She wanted to photograph the Queen of England in formal attire outdoors, but this is just "not done". The final photograph is actually a digital composite of two separate photographs (the landscape and the Queen in front of a gray screen).
I think what I enjoyed most though, was reading about the times when she wasn't so sure of herself, learning new skills as she went, and making mistakes along the way. With great artists, I think we sometimes get the impression that they always know what to do and are, essentially, perfect. Probably because we only see a selective end result. Being relatively new to a career in photography, it was reassuring to realize that things go wrong for everyone (even experts), mistakes will happen and that they're part of the process, and that you never stop learning. All things I "knew", but I guess I just needed to be reminded.