Annie Leibovitz's first "Rolling Stone" cover features John Lennon
Annie Leibovitz was only 21 years old when her photograph of John Lennon appeared on the January 21, 1971, issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Born in Westport, CT, the young photographer enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute in 1967. Spending time on an Israeli kibbutz while in college, she took photographs of Israel that garnered her a job at Rolling Stone even before her graduation from the Institute. In 1973, Leibovitz was named the magazine's chief photographer.
During more than ten years on the staff of Rolling Stone, Leibovitz photographed dozens of musical celebrities and produced many additional cover images. Among her many photographs were six months of images from a Rolling Stones' tour, and a photo of Bette Midler in a bed of roses. Leibovitz's portraits were distinguished by her attention to the whole person of each of her subjects. Rather than taking simple head shots, Leibovitz often photographed her subjects full-length, and almost always posed them surrounded by objects from their lives. Perhaps her most famous image is of a nude Lennon embracing a fully clothed Yoko Ono, taken just hours before Lennon was shot dead outside his Manhattan apartment building.
In 1983, Leibovitz left Rolling Stone for Vanity Fair, which offered a wider scope for her art. In her new post, she photographed the Dalai Lama, Vaclav Havel, and Donald Trump, among other religious, political, and business leaders. It was also in 1983 that Leibovitz published her first book, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs. While working at Vanity Fair, Leibovitz began working in advertising—designing campaigns for the World Cup (1986) and American Express (1987). This work brought her awards from the American Society of Magazine Photographers, Advertising Age magazine, and the International Center of Photography.
In 1991, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, mounted a retrospective of Leibovitz's work. She was only the second living photographer to be featured there. The works in the exhibit were later published as Annie Leibovitz: Photographs, 1970-1990. Later in the decade, Leibovitz spent two years photographing athletes around the world for Olympic Portraits (1996), published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games. More recently, Leibovitz has turned her camera from celebrities to more typical women. Women, created with Susan Sontag and published in 1999, combines Sontag's essays with pictures of American women from many walks of life. Along with portraits of political, business, arts, and civic leaders, the book features over 200 photographs of teachers, coal miners, soldiers, farmers, sex workers, beauty pageant contestants, and other "ordinary" women. In 2006, she published A Photographer's Life: 1990–2005, which features her professional work integrated with many searing images from her personal life with Susan Sontag and the rest of her family.
Source: Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 817-818.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Annie Leibovitz's first "Rolling Stone" cover features John Lennon." (Viewed on September 25, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/jan/21/1971/annie-leibovitz>.