At Borders: Annie Leibovitz at Work

Today my mom called me and said "Broders has gone bankrupt and they're trying to get rid of all their books... the whole place is like half off!" So my mom, dad, sister and I drove over and meandered through the left overs. My sister went straight for the books about puppies, my mom ran over to the romance/crime/love affair type fiction section, my dad set off on a search for an oddly specific book about whales, and I think I may have hurt some people on my way to the art section.

About an hour later we all reconvened at a table with TONS of books and started to narrow down our choices- my sister couldn't decide between "150 Cutest Puppies" and "100 Puppies from Around the World," my mom had about 10 small packets of Mini Belgian Waffles, claiming that "they are only 68 cents each!!" My dad fell asleep and I started browsing through about 10 different books that I picked out.

I narrowed it down to Vanity Fair: The Portraits, Annie Leibovitz at Work and Andrew Zuckerman: Wisdom. At the end i settled for Annie Leibovitz and Andrew Zuckerman. But I want to talk about the Annie Leibovitz at Work book for just a sec. The book is a bit unlike most of her books... first off, it is smaller in scale and page count. It has a nice linen cover with a beautiful sleeve. The book is nicely layed out and it highlights her life as a photographer starting with her mother and father and moving through her 70's era with the Rolling Stones and onto her Vanity Fair work and her portraits of the Queen and Obama. Each phase is composed of only a few pages with some very iconic images and short, yet compelling text written by Leibovitz herself. I haven't had a chance to read it just yet since its a Christmas present, but the little text that I read at Borders did catch my eye and it seemed to come from a more personal point of view: Leibovitz on Leibovitz. So what makes it worth it? Modest book for Leibovitz, beautifully designed and reproduced, her own writing on her own work but short, concise, to the point but well written and very interesting. And finally, it was on clearance at Borders even though it was released only a few months ago.

Now, here's the thing, people always either love or hate Annie Leibovitz. I tend to go back and forth, I like most of her work and I think shes very talented. I also admire the fact that you can tell that she is a really hard worker, she has had a long career and there is a large archive of images to account for it. I love that she is a lesbian, has kids and is Susan Sontag's partner (may she rest in peace). But of course there are all the stories about her being a bitch, very pretentious and having her interns cleaning her telephone with a Q-Tip. Also there is all the fuzz about her making all of this crazy commercial work and being a sell out blah blah blah but I guess she does have to pay for that big house of hers on top of her studio and all of her equipment and her 15+ crew. Point is, that's why I like the book... because it is modest, it is not over the top, and it just focuses on her work, how she made it and why she made it.

As for the Andrew Zuckerman book, very nicely reproduced, very nice photographs, but more importantly I find his Wisdom project very honest and quite moving too. Its a nice book and it comes with a DVD.