Signature Leibovitz

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Signature Leibovitz
Actor Brad Pitt posing for America's most celebrated photographers, Annie Leibovitz for a 1994 portrait in Las Vegas, Nevada.

You have probably seen her photographic work grace the covers of top fashion magazines. But to renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz, these pictures of world-famous celebrities just make up one side of her life - the "assignments". The other side, is the "personal".

Both are on display at her exhibition, Annie Leibovitz A Photographer's Life 1990-2005, which opens at the ArtScience Museum today, and she insists they form her life as a whole. As she put it in her foreword: "I don't have two lives. This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it."

Almost 200 of Leibovitz's pictures taken over a 15-year period are on show. Colourful magazine covers side by side with black-and-white family holiday photos. In that decade and a half, she has also lived through some major events in her life; such as the death of her father and of her long-time companion Susan Sontag. But in the same period, her three daughters - Sarah, Susan and Samuelle - were also born.

Some of the most notable photographs that fall under the "assignment" category feature images of Queen Elizabeth II, the Obama family, Mick Jagger, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a pregnant Demi Moore in the nude. The last photo caused a controversy when it graced the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991.

"We were all working on different ways to avoid her (looking) pregnant in the picture. And then I said, 'Let's just do something for you.' And we started to shoot, and I said, 'You know, this would be a great cover,' " says Leibovitz of the photo during a press tour on Wednesday afternoon. "We knew it was sensational, but didn't realise it would have all this resonance," she adds with a chuckle.

But even after having photographed countless celebrities and influential individuals, Leibovitz reveals that her favourite picture falls under the "personal" category - one of her mother, taken in 1997. "I see my work as a body of work. (The photographs) are all brothers and sisters to each other… But when I get pushed against the wall about what's my favourite picture, I turn to this picture," she says, pointing to a black-and-white portrait of her mother titled My Mother At Clifton Point.

It's not a picture that can be taken every day, because of the level of intimacy and love for the subject, she reasons.

When asked if she has ever been not in the mood to take a photo, Leibovitz smiles and fondly brings up the importance of experiencing moments with her kids instead of always trying to capture them.

"I believe more in spending time with (my kids), and I see (opportunities for) pictures fly by all the time. You don't stop just because you don't have a camera... I've seen some beautiful pictures go away but (at least) I'm there (with my kids)," she says.

Annie Leibovitz A Photographer's Life 1990-2005 runs at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands till Oct. Opening hours are from 10am to 7pm daily, with last admission at 6pm. Ticket prices start from $13. Log on to www.sistic.com.sg for more information and to purchase tickets.

This article was published on April 18 in The Business Times.

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