The photography of Annie Leibovitz is always fascinating to me. She is a brilliant artist and her photographs are amazing and profound. Her book, WOMEN, a collaborative work with Susan Sontag, who wrote a powerful essay on women for the book, is an incredibly thought-provoking study of the diversity of women.
from the publisher:
The photographs by Annie Leibovitz in Women, taken especially for the book, encompass a broad spectrum of subjects: a rap artist, an astronaut, two Supreme Court justices, farmers, coal miners, movie stars, showgirls, rodeo riders, socialites, reporters, dancers, a maid, a general, a surgeon, the First Lady of the United States, the secretary of state, a senator, rock stars, prostitutes, teachers, singers, athletes, poets, writers, painters, musicians, theater directors, political activists, performance artists, and businesswomen. “Each of these pictures must stand on its own,” Susan Sontag writes in the essay that accompanies the portraits. “But the ensemble says, So this what women are now — as different, as varied, as heroic, as forlorn, as conventional, as unconventional as this.”
Susan Sontag’s essay on women and photography was just as powerful as the photographs in the book.
“Women are judged by their appearance as men are not, and women are punished more than men are by the changes brought about by aging.”
“One of the tasks of photography is to disclose, and shape our sense of, the variety of the world. It is not to present ideals. There is no agenda except diversity and interestingness. There are no judgments, which of course is itself a judgment.”
I have used the words “powerful” and “profound” to describe this book, and the collaboration of these two women certainly achieved that! It is not a light-weight book. It is not one to just skim through. Their exploration of the lives of women is illuminating, disturbing, uplifting, fascinating. Take your time with this book.
This book was published in 1999 and Ms. Leibovitz considered that “the project was never done.” She continued to work on it, and in collaboration with her friend, Gloria Steinem, created a 2016 international traveling exhibit called WOMEN: New Portraits.
I read this book and celebrate this artist as part of my year-long celebration of turning 70 years old. Annie Leibovitz was born in the same year as me, 1949!