Annie Leibovitz was born in Connecticut in 1949. She became involved in several types of art in high school, one of which was photography. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. Afterwards she spent a few years developing her photography while working various jobs. In 1970 she became a staff photographer for Rolling Stone. Eventually she was named cheif photographer and she remained there until 1983. Leibovitz mainly does portraiture. Some of her best-known assignments were The Rolling Stones, Joan Armatrading, and John Lennon. Her photographs of Lennon were especially notable because she captured the last images of him alive, he was shot hours after meeting with her. More recently, in 2007, she photographed celebrities in classic Disney scenes for a Disney campaign. She also photographed the cast of Les Misérables as well as Kim and Kanye with their daughter for Vogue in 2014. She continues to produce stunning photographs for clients and publications. Despite her success in photography Leibovitz has struggled financially. She borrowed over 15 million dollars in 2009 and had to include the rights to her photographs as part of the collateral. Her shoots became increasingly extravagant and expensive over time, some say too much so. But she is still one of the biggest names in celebrity portraiture.
Richard Avedon was a major influence on Leibovitz’s photography. She admired his technique of capturing intimate moments of with his subjects. Without his early additions to portrait photography she wouldn’t be able to do what she does. While studying at the San Francisco Art Institute she was introduced to photographers Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. She has said, “Their style of personal reportage–taken in a graphic way–was what we were taught to emulate.” Leibovitz’s own contributions have altered and will continue to alter the genre of celebrity portraiture, setting the bar (especially in production value) for those to come after her.