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A photographers life

Published: June 22, 2011 (Issue # 1662)



  • Photographer Annie Leibovitz pictured at the opening of her exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum on Tuesday.
    Photo: ALEXANDER BELENKY / The St. Petersburg Times

  • Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer shot on Cumberland Island, Georgia in 1990.
    Photo: ANNIE LEIBOVITZ

Sitting in the apartments of Tsar Alexander I in the State Hermitage Museum, Annie Leibovitz is a generous presence in an otherwise daunting enfilade of staterooms. At 62, she is possibly the worlds most famous photographer, and during the past four decades has trained her lens on the great and the good and on a fair share of monsters too. It wouldnt be an exaggeration to say that few photographers can lay claim to quite as much psychic real estate as Leibovitz. From the Rolling Stones to the Clintons, she has photographed just about anyone who is anybody, creating some of the 20th centurys most memorable portraits in the process.

The survey exhibition now on view at the Hermitage brings together a selection of Leibovitzs photography from between 1990 and 2005: 15 years that saw important changes in her personal life. It was a book before it was a show, and thats probably the reason I felt comfortable with the imagery going into it, she said Tuesday in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times ahead of the exhibitions opening.

Some of the images makes it seem like, are we trespassing? But in the shelter of the book covers, it felt protected. So it was interesting to translate it into a show.

Now out in the world, and hung against the pastel walls of the Winter Palace, it becomes clear that this multifaceted body of work is held together by the sheer force of her personality, her distinctive voice, a relentless pursuit of the telling moment and a deep, almost melancholic, understanding of the transience of life.

On some level I like the book more, she says. But on another level its exciting to see it come to life. And the show changes wherever its mounted.

The personal work is printed far smaller than the assignment works, she explains, because it was designed to be intimate.

The Connecticut-born, New York-based artist began her journey in the crucible of late 1960s San Francisco and has been at the epicenter of the entertainment industry ever since. Her uniquely American vision has made her one of the most important chroniclers of what fascinates the nation, and has earned her a place among its most eloquent raconteurs.

Leibovitz started out at Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, where she created portraits of a generation that still resonate today. In the 80s she moved to Vanity Fair, going on to define that decade and the next with her take on everything from the O. J. Simpson murder trial to a portrait of a naked and very pregnant Demi Moore. Most recently, her photographs for Vogue have taken fashion photography from the merely glamorous to the downright operatic.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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