Annie Leibovitz’s Stunningly Stylized Hollywood Portraits

Lady Gaga

Sure it will cost you $2,500 but this gigantic book that's over two and a half feet tall and weighs an astounding 57 pounds isn't any ordinary book. Portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz draws from over 40 years of work to create this limited edition tome, joining only Helmut Newton and David LaChapelle in making a SUMO-sized book for publisher Taschen. The project took several years to develop and asked Leibovitz to look back upon her illustrious career.

While you'll see such iconic images as John Lennon and Yoko Ono's last embrace to Richard Nixon's final White House helicopter lift off, it's Leibovitz's more stylized Hollywood portraits she's created for fashion magazines like Vanity Fair and Vogue that will make you remember why Leibovitz is more like an artist than a photographer. The way she can bring out the personalities of her subjects – be it actors, musicians, comedians, artists or athletes – is unlike any other.

In an interview with Taschen, Leibovitz explains what went into creating her enormous collector's book. Or should we call it that? What book comes with a custom-made Marc Newson–designed tripod stand? As she explains, “It's not really a book. It sits on a stand. You can find a photograph that you care about and leave the book open to that and sort of dwell on it.”

Here are a few of our favorite Q&As:

You've said that you thought that one of the major themes of the book is “performance.”
“Having your photograph taken involves a performance, portraits particularly. The photographer provides the subjects with a stage–but then they have to project. You are taking a real picture in real time no matter how conceptual it is. There is a reality in the performance. My background as a photographer is as an observer. I'm a terrible director.”

Still on the subject of performers, do you have a favorite type that you like to photograph?
“The performers I have the most rapport with are comedians, who make up a very special group. They're sort of like maniac depressives. I sympathize with them. They are usually also very intelligent. For me, the classic photograph of a comedian is Charlie Chaplin just leaning. That is such an extraordinarily funny picture. It's as perfect a photograph as you could ever have of a comedian. Chaplin came from silent films. The challenge for a photographer is to create a visually funny picture without it being stupid. It's difficult to take a funny picture.”

Taschen's website

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