Annie Leibovitz’s new exhibit, WOMEN: New Portraits, unveils women in their diverse and changing roles. We went down to the Singapore exhibit to check out the buzz.
If you have ever been lucky enough to have a photo taken of you by Annie Leibovitz, what would the experience be like? Well, the recent WOMEN: New Portraits exhibition might give you a peek into that experience.
The famed portrait photographer usually starts off by doing her homework. She would find out more about you and look at other photographs of you. If you haven’t been photographed very much, she would try to spend some time with you. It could be a couple of sessions or maybe you both would hang out just for a bit. She would research into where you live or how you work or how you relate to people and if you had a family (or not). Heck if Annie had enough time on her calendar, she would even make it a point to find out what your favourite chair was. If she had six months, she could get to your soul without even you knowing it. Scary but evidently, quite true with this famous photographer.
The soul is the core of Leibovitz’s work and that’s what makes her portraits so captivating. Whether you are looking at a photograph of Misty Copeland, Caitlyn Jenner or Malala Yousafzai, you feel like they are unapologetically revealing the essence of their true selves, in a way that is raw, defiant or introspective.
Annie Leibovitz has honed her skills working for Rolling Stone before joining Vanity Fair as the first contributing photographer. She took the arresting photo of John Lennon nude and curled around a fully clothed Yoko Ono just a few hours before the legendary singer was shot dead and famously shot a nude Demi Moore holding her 7-month pregnant belly. Both iconic photographs made it to the covers of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair respectively and were named by the American Society of Magazine Editors in 2005 as the best and second best magazine covers from the past 40 years.
Since then Leibovitz has photographed celebrities and public figures ranging from Brad Pitt and Whoopi Goldberg to Elon Musk and Queen Elizabeth II. Last July, she shot another historic cover with Caitlyn Jenner coming out as a transgender women.
WOMEN: New Portraits continues a project that began more than fifteen years ago by Annie Leibovitz with her partner Susan Sontag to photograph women in their diverse roles as coal miners, musicians, painters, political activists, rappers, rodeo riders and even the first lady – Hilary Clinton who is now the front-runner for the democratic presidential candidate. It remains her most enduringly popular series of photographs till today. The new portraits, commissioned by UBS, reflect the ever-changing roles of women and its accompanying free traveling exhibit will be shown in 10 cities such as London, New York and Tokyo, over the next 12 months.
At the Singapore stop, the exhibition was held at the decommissioned Tanjong Pagar train station. It was an awesome experience to see the iconic series in person but we wish more thought was given to the presentation of the photos. The A4 prints didn’t do justice to the subjects as we felt we were missing out on the details and intricacies of the women in the photographs. However, it did accurately reflects an incomplete board for an on-going project that is far from complete. Perhaps, it was due to the limitations of the venue but the entire photos series was condensed to just a few large panels, which is odd considering how spacious the place is. On the two huge screens, there were backlit images of the women she captured. In the crowded environment, it was difficult though to appreciate the small prints when you were jostling for elbow space and the number of seats in front of the video projections was kinda limited.
Overall the entire experience was a letdown for me. But if Annie Leibovitz were to update her original book with the new portraits she has taken, this would be on the very top of our “to-buy” list. Right now, it just didn’t give us the goosebumps we were expecting.
So were you able to see this exhibit or any of Annie Leibovitz’s previous traveling exhibits in other cities? If so, let us know your experience in the comments below.