A life in pictures

Annie Leibovitz admits that her weakness is that she likes people.

“My pictures are always going to be gushy and soft and nice on some level,” said the woman who might be the world’s most famous living photographer.

The affable artist was in San Francisco Friday leading a press tour of “Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005,” which runs through May 25 at the Legion of Honor.

“I’d love to be Diane Arbus,” she said, “but I’m not going to be making those edgy photos.”

She pointed to an image of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer, saying that it reminded her of her dancer mother, who was always doing leg lifts. The photo was taken on a beach on a date late in Baryshnikov’s career, after a move created by choreographer Mark Morris. “Mischa didn’t have any knees left, so Mark had Rob Besserer pick him up and carry him,” Leibovitz said.

The photographer, who got her start at the San Francisco Art Institute, then created dozens of iconic covers for Rolling Stone, said she was grateful to be back in The City, particularly for this show, which combines her internationally-renowned commercial images with a few landscapes, examples of photojournalism, and many family photos (some that look like they could be in anyone’s collection).

“It came out of that moment of grief,” she said, after her partner Susan Sontag, and her father, died. “I opened myself up in a way that I really won’t do again.”

If she had to pick her strongest photo, it would be a 1997 portrait of her mother. She said, “I wanted her not to smile. I wanted her to look her age. She was very nervous.” Her mom didn’t like it at first, but changed her mind after she received compliments about it.

Leibovitz disdains the notion that photography often captures the human spirit. “It just doesn’t happen — getting someone’s soul,” she said. “If it does, it’s going to have to be someone like your mom.”

What results in a picture, she said, is so dependent on the people involved, and what they want to give the photographer.

“I like surface,” she said. What makes some of her photographs unique, she offers, is that she allows her subjects to play.

IF YOU GO

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005

Where: Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street, San Francisco

When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. daily, closed Monday through May 25

Tickets: $11 to $15; free first Tuesday of the month

Contact: (415) 750-3600 or www.legionofhonor.org

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Advocates with the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition hold a rally outside City Hall before the Board of Supervisors were to vote on a resolution supporting the creation of a public banking charter on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Should San Francisco run its own public bank? The debate returns

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Apprenticeship instructor Mike Miller, center, demonstrates how to set up a theodolite, a hyper-sensitive angle measuring device, for apprentices Daniel Rivas, left, Ivan Aguilar, right, and Quetzalcoatl Orta, far right, at the Ironworkers Local Union 377 training center in Benicia on June 10, 2021. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters)
California’s affordable housing crisis: Are labor union requirements in the way?

By Manuela Tobias CalMatters California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that… Continue reading

People fish at a dock at Islais Creek Park on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Islais Creek tells us about rising sea levels in San Francisco

Islais Creek is an unassuming waterway along San Francisco’s eastern industrial shoreline,… Continue reading

Organizer Jas Florentino, left, explains the figures which represent 350 kidnapped Africans first sold as slaves in the United States in 1619 in sculptor Dana King’s “Monumental Reckoning.” The installation is in the space of the former Francis Scott Key monument in Golden Gate Park. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What a reparations program would look like in The City

‘If there’s any place we can do it, it’s San Francisco’

Officer Joel Babbs, pictured at a protest outside the Hall of Justice in 2017, is representing himself in an unusually public police misconduct matter. <ins>(Courtesy Bay City News)</ins>
The strange and troubling story of Joel Babbs: What it tells us about the SFPD

The bizarre and troubling career of a whistle-blowing San Francisco police officer… Continue reading

Most Read