At 74 years old, Annie Leibovitz has this physical status:
For many years Leibovitz's camera of choice was a Mamiya RZ67. She also has used the following cameras:
When Leibovitz returned to the United States in 1970, she started her career as staff photographer for Rolling Stone magazine. In 1973, publisher Jann Wenner named Leibovitz chief photographer of Rolling Stone, a job she would hold for 10 years. Leibovitz worked for the magazine until 1983, and her intimate photographs of celebrities helped define the Rolling Stone look.
While working for Rolling Stone, Leibovitz learned that she could work for magazines and still create personal work of her family, which for her was the most important: "You don't get the opportunity to do this kind of intimate work except with the people you love, the people who will put up with you. They're the people who open their hearts and souls and lives to you. You must take care of them."
Leibovitz photographed the Rolling Stones in San Francisco in 1971 and 1972, and served as the concert-tour photographer for the Rolling Stones' Tour of the Americas '75. Her favorite photo from the tour was a photo of Mick Jagger in an elevator.
On December 8, 1980, Leibovitz had a photo shoot with John Lennon for Rolling Stone, and she promised him he would make the cover. She had initially tried to get a picture with just Lennon alone, as Rolling Stone wanted, but Lennon insisted that both he and Yoko Ono be on the cover. Leibovitz then tried to re-create something like the kissing scene from the couple's Double Fantasy album cover, a picture Leibovitz loved. She had John remove his clothes and curl up next to Yoko on the floor. Leibovitz recalls,
Leibovitz was the last person to professionally photograph Lennon—he was shot and killed five hours later. A month or so later, Rolling Stone magazine gave grieving music fans his "last image".
The photograph was subsequently re-created in 2009 by John and Yoko's son Sean Lennon posing with his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl, with male/female roles reversed (Sean clothed, Kemp naked), and by Henry Bond and Sam Taylor-Wood in their YBA pastiche October 26, 1993.
Leibovitz's new style of lighting and use of bold colors and poses got her a position with Vanity Fair magazine in 1983.
Leibovitz photographed celebrities for an international advertising campaign for American Express charge cards, which won a Clio award in 1987.
In 1991, Leibovitz mounted an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. She was the second living portraitist and first woman to show there. That same year, Leibovitz was also made Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. Also in 1991, Leibovitz emulated Margaret Bourke-White's feat by mounting one of the eagle gargoyles on the 61st floor of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, where she photographed the dancer David Parsons cavorting on another eagle gargoyle. Noted Life photographer and picture editor John Loengard made a gripping photo of Leibovitz at the climax of her danger (Loengard was photographing Leibovitz for The New York Times that day).
In 1998, Leibovitz began to work regularly for Vogue.
In 2007, a major retrospective of Leibovitz's work was held at the Brooklyn Museum. The retrospective was based on her book, Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990–2005 and included many of her professional (celebrity) photographs and numerous personal photographs of her family, children, and partner Susan Sontag. This show, which was expanded to include three official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, then went on the road for seven stops. It was on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from October 2007 to January 2008 and at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco from March 2008 to May 2008. In February 2009, the exhibition was moved to Berlin, Germany. The show included 200 photographs. This exhibition and her talk focused on her personal photographs and life.
In 2015, Leibovitz was the principal photographer for the 2016 Pirelli calendar. Leibovitz took a drastic shift from the calendar traditional style by focusing on admirable women as opposed to sexuality. The calendar included Amy Schumer, Serena Williams, and Patti Smith. Leibovitz had previously worked on the 2000 calendar.
In 2007, the BBC misrepresented Leibovitz's portrait shooting of Queen Elizabeth II to take the Queen's official picture for her state visit to Virginia. This was filmed for the BBC documentary A Year with the Queen. A promotional trailer for the film showed the Queen reacting incredulously to Leibovitz's suggestion ("less dressy") that she remove her tiara, stating "less dressy? What do you think this is?" This cut immediately to a scene of the Queen walking down a corridor, telling an aide "I'm not changing anything. I've had enough dressing like this, thank you very much." The BBC later apologized and admitted that the sequence of events had been misrepresented, as the Queen was in fact walking to the sitting in the second scene, not storming off from it like the BBC implied by presenting the scenes in that order. This led to a BBC scandal and a shake-up of ethics training. However, a 2015 London Times article contradicts this story. It stated that the Queen was both incredulous at being asked to remove her crown as "no-one tells her what to do" and insulted, as the item was only a tiara.
In 2008, Leibovitz choreographed a photoshoot featuring LeBron James and Gisele Bündchen that graced the cover of Vogue. The cover was the first time a black man ever appeared on Vogue. The cover drew controversy due to its depiction of James posing with his hand around Bündchen's waist, similar to that of a poster of King Kong holding onto Fay Wray. Jemele Hill and many others acknowledged the gorilla-like pose plays on racial stereotypes. Magazine analyst Samir Husni believed the photo to be deliberately provocative, adding on Today, "So when you have a cover that reminds people of King Kong and brings those stereotypes to the front, black man wanting white woman, it's not innocent". The Fashion Post magazine named it one of the most controversial Vogue magazine covers, ranking it number 3.
On April 25, 2008, Entertainment Tonight reported that 15-year-old Miley Cyrus had posed topless for a photo shoot with Vanity Fair. The photograph and subsequently released behind-the-scenes photographs show Cyrus topless, her bare back exposed but her front covered with a bedsheet. The photo was taken by Leibovitz. The full photograph was published with an accompanying story on The New York Times' website on April 27, 2008. On April 29, 2008, The New York Times clarified: though the pictures left an impression that she was bare-breasted, Cyrus was wrapped in a bedsheet and was actually not topless. Some parents expressed outrage at the nature of the photograph, which a Disney spokesperson described as "a situation [that] was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines". In response to the Internet circulation of the photo and ensuing media attention, Cyrus released a statement of apology on April 27: "I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about." Leibovitz also released a statement saying: "I'm sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted.... The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful."
- 2018 Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Rhode Island School of Design
- 2016 International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum
- 2015 Paez Medal of Art from VAEA
- 2013 Prince of Asturias Award for Communication
- 2009 The Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography
- 2003 The Lucie Awards
- 1999 ADC Hall of Fame