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WOMEN: New Portraits, Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz is the world renowned photographer to have taken a photograph of John Lennon on the day he was assassinated (pictured below). Born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1949, she is perhaps one of America’s greatest portrait photographers. This is because her images are iconic and provocative; they transcend boarders and resonate with all who see them through their bold colours, poses and emotions. I have read that once you have seen an exhibition of hers, you will always be able to recognise her work. Now I was sceptical of this at first but it is surprisingly accurate. You may not know that it is her work definitively but something in your mind will spark and make you think of her. Her work conveys the stories of the people in each image, which makes them all the more beguiling.

Recently, Annie Leibovitz’s exhibition WOMEN: New Portraits was in Zürich. It has been on a tour in 10 global cities; San Francisco, Mexico City, New York, London, Zürich, Frankfurt, Milan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The new Annie Leibovitz portraits, commissioned by UBS, reflect on the changes of women’s roles today. Her most enduringly popular series ‘WOMEN’ was published in 1999 and this new collection consists of new works (surprise, surprise) but also some from the original series, so it forms almost a continuation rather than an entirely new collection.

In Zürich the images could be viewed in an industrial warehouse converted into an exhibition space, which allowed the images to appear more striking amongst the grey hued venue (with warehouse staples such as exposed pipes and vents). The photographs were all arrayed on a make shift wall to be viewed. Along with the impressive but familiar female celebrities, such as Adele and Meryl Streep, there were some perhaps less known but incredibly inspirational faces. Misty Copland (pictured above), the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal (lead) in the American Ballet Theatre, can be seen in a flowing gown, which encapsulates her grace and strength; the perfect attributes for ballerinas. 

The most moving image was that of Aung San Suu Kyi (pictured above), arguably one of the fiercest political figures of today. She endured house arrest from 1989 until 2010 fighting for the pro-democracy party of Myanmar. She won the Noble Peace Prize and along with the win for the National League of Democracy has now become the State Counsellor of Myanmar. It is saddening to learn that she was prevented from becoming president as the previous military government had written in the constitution that prohibited someone who married a foreigner or had children with foreign citizenship from taking the highest office. Aung San Suu Kyi studied abroad and married a British historian. 

Intended to be viewed together, as the saying goes; the total is worth more than the some of its parts. For these images really portray the immense and diverse achievements of women across the globe. Leibovitz has always been a pioneer in the growing movement against gender inequality. Her photographs look beyond stereotypes and we see the creativity of minds as well as womb.

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