Annie Leibovitz: Photography

Born on October 2, 1949,  in Waterbury, Connecticut, Annie Leibovitz has been documenting American popular culture since the 1970’s and is one of the most sought after portrait photographers today.

The Leibovitz family moved frequently with her father’s duty assignments in the US Air Force and Annie took her first photos when they were stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. Leibovitz studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute and after a summer trip to Japan with her mother, she began taking night classes in photography and continued developing her skills as a photographer. Early influences include Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

In 1970, Leibovitz approached the editor of the recently launched Rolling Stone Magazine for  employment. Her first assignment was a photo shoot with John Lennon and her photo appeared on the January 1971 issue.  Leibovitz  was named chief photographer two years later.

In 1980, Leibovitz was sent to photograph John Lennon and Yoko Ono and created the now famous Lennon nude curled around a fully clothed Ono.  Several hours after the photo shoot, Lennon was shot and killed. The photograph ran on the cover of Rolling Stone Lennon commemorative issue and in 2005 was named best magazine cover from the past 40 years by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

In 1983, Leibovitz became a contributing photographer for Vanity Fair Magazine and became known for her provocative celebrity portraits including Whoopie Goldberg, Demi Moore, Brad Pitt, Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Elizabeth II, and countless others. Her portraits have also been featured in national media including Vogue, The New York Times, The New Yorker, as well as media ads for American Express, the Gap, and the Milk Board.

Leibovitz began a long-term romantic relationship with writer Susan Sontag in 1989. Sontag had a strong influence on her work including her photos documenting the Balkan war in Sarajevo and “Women”, a book they published together in 2000. The couple lived apart but maintained a close relationship until Sontag’s death in 2004.

Leibovitz has received numerous awards including a Commandeur des Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government as well as designation as a living legend by the Library of Congress. In 1991, she had her first museum show at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. – a show that toured internationally for six years.

With several book publications under her belt, Leibovitz’s most recent book “A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005″ features her trademark celebrity portraits as well as personal photographs from her own life.

Leibovitz has three children, Sarah Cameron who was born when Leibovitz was 51 years old, and twins Susan and Samuelle who were born to a surrogate mother in May 2005.

To see more of Annie Leibovitz’s photographs visit Contact Press.  If you get the chance, there is a fantastic PBS documentary called “Annie Leibovitz, Life Through a Lens” that features interviews from celebrities and with the photographer about the her work over the last few decades.

Sources: PBS, Wikipedia

Man Ray: 1890 – 1976

Larmes-(tears)- Man Ray-1930Born Emmanuel Radnitzky on August 27, 1890 in Philidelphia, PA, Man Ray was an influential artist, best known for his avant-garde photography. He was a leading figure (and the only American) to play a  significant role in the Dada and Surrealist movements.

Ray grew up in Brooklyn, New York and showed artistic ability at an early age.  He studied drawing under Robert Henri and George Bellows at the Francisco Ferrer Social Center (Modern School). Upon his completion of his classes, Ray lived in the art colony of Ridgefield, New Jersey. There, he illustrated, designed and produced small pamphlets (Ridgefield Gazook – 1915) and A Book of Diverse Writings.

Ray had his first solo show at the Daniel Gallery in New York in 1915 and shortly after became interested in photography.  Around the same time, he became friends with Marcel Duchamp with whom he founded the Society of Independent Artists in 1916.  In 1920, along with Duchamp, Katherine Dreier, Henry Hudson, and Andrew McLaren, Ray founded the Société Anonyme, a group that sponsored lectures, concerts, publications, and exhibitions of modern art.

In 1921, May Ray moved to Paris where he settled for twenty years.  He became involved with Dada and Surrealist artists and writers such as Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst, Dali, Eluard, Picasso, and others.  While in Paris, Ray worked with different media and produced a variety of works.  In 1922, he began experimenting with his version of a photogram which he called a “rayograph” – the process of creating images from placing objects on photo-sensitive paper.  Ray likened his technique to painting saying that he was “painting with light”.

In the 1920’s and 30’s Ray earned a steady income as a portrait photographer and as one of the foremost fashion photographers for Harper’s Bazaar, Vu, and Vogue.   In the late 1920’s Ray won recognition for his experiments with Sabattier (solarization process) and many of the Surrealists followed his example of using photography in their works.

Man Ray also made his mark in the avant-garde film circles in the 1920’s. In “Le Retour à la Raison”, he created his first “cine-rayographs’ – sequences of cameraless photographs. Other films including “Emak Bakia” (1926), L’Etoile de Mer” (1928), and Les Mystères du Château de Dé” (1929) are now classics of the Surrealist film genre.

At the beginning of World War II, Man Ray left Paris and moved to Los Angeles in 1940 where he focused on painting and creating objects. While there, he also met and married Juliet Browner, a dancer and artists’ model. He remained in LA until 1951 when he returned to his home in Paris where he continued working in a variety of mediums – his photography having the greatest impact on 20th century art.  In 1963 he published his autobiography, “Self-Portrait”.

Man Ray died in Paris on November 18, 1976. His epitaph at the Cimetière du Montparnasse, reads: “unconcerned, but not indifferent”. Juliet Browner died in 1991 and she was interred in the Ray’s tomb. Her epitaph reads, “together again”. Browner set up a  charitable trust and donated much of Ray’s work to museums.

Sources: MOMA, Guggenheim MuseumWikipedia Images: USC, Ciudad de la Pintura

Henri Cartier-Bresson: 1908 – 2004

Born on August 22, 1908, in Chanteloup, Seine-et-Marne, near Paris, Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered by many to be the father of modern photo-journalism.

In 1927, Cartier-Bresson studied painting at the Lhote Academy in Paris under Cubist painter and sculptor André Lhote. He turned to photography in 1931 when he acquired a Leica 35mm camera – a camera that, unlike its bulky predecessors, was ideal for capturing action.

Cartier-Bresson preferred an unobtrusive (“a fly on the wall”) approach to photography. This approach helped to develop the real life reporting (candid photography), that has influenced generations of photo-journalists.

Cartier-Bresson traveled the world photographing “the times” in Russia, China, Cuba, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Europe , and the United States.  He photographed events such as the funeral of Gandhi, the fall of Beijing, and the liberation of Paris. Cartier-Bresson’s main body of work however was of human activities and the institutions of  society. In every country, he sought out market places, weddings, funerals, people at work, children in parks, adults in their leisure time, and other every-day activities.

During the Battle of France, in June 1940 Cartier-Bresson was captured by German soldiers and spent 35 months in prisoner-of-war camps doing forced labor under the Nazis.  He escaped in 1943 and began working for MNPGD, a secret organization that aided prisoners and escapees. At the end of the war, Cartier-Bresson directed “Le Retour” (The Return), a documentary on the repatriation of prisoners of war and detainees.

In 1947, along with Robert Capa, David Seymour, William Vandivert, and George Rodger, Cartier-Bresson founded the co-operative agency “Magnum Photos”. The aim of Magnum was to allow photographers to “work outside the formulas of magazine journalism”.

In 1952, Cartier-Bresson published a book of his photographs entitled ” Images à la sauvette” (images on the run),  with the English title “The Decisive Moment”. In the 1960’s he created 16 portraiture stories entitled “A Touch of Greatness” for the the London magazine “The Queen”. The stories profiled personalities such as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, Robert Kennedy and others.

In 1968, Cartier-Bresson left Magnum Photos and photography in general, focusing once again on drawing and painting.  He retired from photography completely by 1975 and had his first exhibition of his drawings at the Carlton Gallery in New York in 1975.

From 1975 on, Cartier-Bresson continued to focus on drawing. In 1982 he was awarded the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in Paris, and in 1986, the Novecento Prize in Palermo, Italy.  In 1988, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition of his photographs – “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work”.

In 2003, Cartier-Bresson, along with his wife Martine Franck and their daughter Mélanie, launched the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, to provide a permanent home for his collected works and as an exhibition space for other artists. Cartier-Bresson died peacefully on August 3rd 2004 in Montjustin, Provence. He was buried in the cemetery of Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France.

For a complete biography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, visit the HCB Foundation or for a good source of photos visit Magnum Photos.

Related Books:
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century
The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers

An Inner Silence: The Portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson

Sources: Met Museum, National Press Photographer’s Association, HCB Foundation, Wikipedia

ART-O-MAT: Pocket Art

buck cellar101

Many art lovers simply don’t have the budget to purchase original works of art.  Enter the Art-O-Mat – re-purposed cigarette vending machines that have been converted to sell pocket size original works of art.

North Carolina artist Clark Whittington created the first Art-O-Mat in 1997 which he showed along side his paintings at a solo show at a local cafe. The machine sold his black & white photographs for $1.00 each. The art show was scheduled to close, however, the owner of the Penny Universitie Gallery, Cynthia Giles, loved the Art-O-Mat and asked that it stay.  It remains in its original location to this day. Following the show, the involvement of other artists was necessary for the project to continue. Giles introduced Whittington to other local artists and the group “Artists in Cellophane” was formed.

“Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art-O-Mat is based on the concept of taking art and “repackaging” it to make it part of our daily lives. The mission of A.I.C. is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. A.I.C believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable.”

The Art-O-Mat dispenses original art-works and may include paintings, photographs, sculpture, collage, illustration, handmade jewellery, textile arts, and more. There are 82 machines in at least 28 American States, one in Quebec, Canada, and one in Vienna, Austria. There are around 400 contributing artists from 10 different countries currently involved in the Art-o-mat project.

For more information, to get involved, or to find an Art-O-Mat near you, visit

took ashevilleartworks

Andy Warhol: 1928 – 1987

Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was a painter, printmaker, and filmmaker and a  pivotal figure in the formation of the  Pop Art movement.

Warhol was the son of working-class Slovakian immigrants. His frequent illnesses in childhood often kept him bedridden and at home. During this time, he formed a strong bond with his mother.  It was what he describes an important period in the formation of his personality and skill set.

Warhol studied at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), majoring in pictorial design. In 1949, he moved to New York City where he quickly became successful in magazine illustration and advertising, producing work for publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and the The New Yorker.

Much of Warhol’s work the 1950’s was commissioned by fashion houses and he became known for his whimsical ink drawings of I. Miller shoes. In 1952, Warhol’s illustrations for Truman Capote’s writings were exhibited by the Hugo Gallery in New York and he exhibited at several other venues in the 1950′s including a 1956 group show at the Museum of Modern Art. Warhol received several awards during this decade from the Art Director’s Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Warhol was enthralled with Hollywood celebrities, fashion, and style and by the early 1960’s these interests were reflected in his artwork. Borrowing images from popular culture, Warhol’s “Pop Art” paintings were characterized by repetition of everyday objects such as soup cans, Coca Cola bottles, and 100 dollar bills.  He also began painting celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Most of Warhol’s paintings were produced in his studio that he called “The Factory” with the help of assistants. Photographic images were screen-printed on to painted backgrounds and mechanically repeated – a process that mimicked the manufacturing industry and parodied mass consumption. During the Factory years, Warhol associated with and “groomed” a variety of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, writer John Giorno, and film-maker Jack Smith.

Warhol worked prolifically in a range of media including painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, and film. Between 1963 and 1968 he produced more than 60 films and about 500 short “screen test” portraits of his studio visitors. His most popular and successful film was Chelsea Girls, made in 1966.

On June 3, 1968, Warhol and art critic/curator Mario Amaya, were shot by Valerie Solanas after she was turned away from the Factory studio. Warhol’s wound was almost fatal and would affect him physically and mentally for the rest of his life.

The 1970’s was a quieter decade for Warhol who concentrated more on portrait commissions for celebrities such as Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and others.  He founded Interview Magazine and in 1975 published “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” which expressed the idea that “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” During the 1970’s Warhol was also involved in a number collaborations with young artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring.

In general, Andy Warhol was consistently ambiguous on the meaning of his work and appeared indifferent and ambivalent. He denied that his artwork carried any social or political commentary.

Warhol died in New York City on February 22, 1987 of a cardiac arrhythmia while recovering from routine gallbladder surgery. In his will, almost his entire estate was dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded in that same year and it remains one of the largest grant-giving organizations for the visual arts in the United States today.

Sources: MOMA, Guggenheim, National Gallery of Canada, Andy Warhol Foundation, Wikipedia