Anne Leibovitz’s says in her autobiographical book “At Work,” ”She brought me there. There was a place I have been cultivating since I was sneaking out of my Physical Education classes in high school and into the most salient classroom on campus – the photo room. The most creative people used Mr. Kneely’s dark room, computer labs, and studios as a threshold into an articulation of what they had been unable to communicate in their academics. It became about who could make the photographs that mattered to our teacher, and to each other. In Leibovitz’s historical return to the outstanding moments in her life and career, she describes a more seasoned and refined version of those students, with an ethic and dedication that photography demands.
She goes through thirty-three chapters showing photographs as if she is uncovering them from a memory box, and telling each story that brought the image into existence. Each picture is carefully selected to exhibit an evolution in her aesthetic, her career, and her life. It is an incredible display of historical documentation in its own right. She began her career working for the Rolling Stone in its early years, and then onto publications such as Vanity Fair and Vogue. Quite a lot of her conversation of a particular photograph might not even be present in the collection, but what she describes is about how that said photograph helped her grow, and what she gained from the experience of taking it. “At Work” is humbling to read.
Her life experiences as a photographer have gained her access to world-renowned artists, musicians, A-List celebrities, United States Presidents and moments in history that have formed and fitted the current state of the world. It is inspiring and passionate while deviously underrated in the complexity of the writer/photographer. In the back of the book there are answers to the ten most frequently asked questions she gets, and a chronology of her life up to 2008, the year the book was published. Reading this book flooded back all my own personal experiences in photography, and when I really started to care about composition and the visual aesthetics of my environment and people around me. She is an absolute inspiration as a tremendous strong woman who has maintained herself despite being in the presence of, and working with some of the most powerful and influential people in the world. As she fittingly says, “Pictures have their own impact. You can study them. They remain.”
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