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VINE VOICEon November 18, 2008
I bought this book because as a small travel publisher I have quite a library of photography books, and I thought this would be a unique addition.

I was right, but it's not what I expected.

A better title would be "Annie Leibovitz: On Work."

This is not a coffee table book, and it's not mainly photographs. For each image there's at least a full page of editorial, maybe two or three pages, as the author describes how each shot came about and her thoughts about the experience. The book is smaller than you might think--a little shorter and narrower than a Time magazine--and the photos smaller than you'd expect. Few are larger than a postcard.

There's no dust jacket, just a paper band that wraps around the bottom.

I was expecting the book to include technical shot-by-shot details, with background images showing reflectors, stylists and such. No such luck. Leibovitz does, however, include an insightful essay about the equipment she has used over the years, as well as an FAQ list. "What advice do you have for a photographer that's just starting out?" "Stay close to home." (She goes on to elaborate.)

The stories, though, are interesting, much like those in A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel. Because Leibovitz has such a clean writing style, and her subjects are often celebrities, the book is a pleasant read, and every bit the unique addition to my library I was hoping for. Now that I've spent some time with it, I actually prefer that the book isn't bigger; it's much easier to sit back and spend time with it this way.

Getting back to the images, some of them really stayed with me. Besides the famous shot of Demi Moore that became a cover of Vanity Fair, there's another one, straight on, with the top of the naked actress fully exposed. A shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger on a white stallion looks like something from Herbert List. A simple portrait of Patti Smith has the revealing facial details and expression like the best work of Richard Avedon. Then there's a 1980s photo of Rev. Al Sharpton getting his hair done at a beauty salon. Made me laugh out loud.

I know many of these shots have been published before, but it is interesting to be able to flip from one to the other.

Here's the chapter list:

1. Nixon's Resignation
2. The Rolling Stones
3. John and Yoko
4. Conceptual Pictures
5. Advertising
6. Al Sharpton
7. Arnold Schwarzenegger
8. Dance
9. Demi Moore
10. Performance
11. Peak Performance
12. War
13. O.J. Simpson
14. Impromptu
15. Patti Smith
16. Fashion
17. Nudes
18. Groups
19. Presence and Charisma
20. Being There
21. My Mother
22. Sarah
23. Susan
24. Hollywood
25. The Queen
26. The Process
27. The Road West
28. Equipment
29. Ten Most-Asked Questions
30. Publishing History
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on November 22, 2008
"At Work" provides a wonderful overview of Annie Leibovitz's career. And what a career it has been -- she's been on the road with the Rolling Stones, she's photographed the Queen of England, the list goes on and on.

Unlike many photo/text books, this is not a how-to book. Sure, there is information on the equipment used for particular shoots, etc. That's not at all what "At Work" is about, though. Instead, it seems to be more about Ms. Leibovitz's progression as an artist. She shares the difficulties, occassional insecurities and successes she's had throughout the years.

Rather than a behind-the-scenes look at the technical side of photography, "At Work" is (in my mind, at least) a behind-the-scenes examination of Ms. Leibovitz's growth as a photographer. And, while the photos are wonderful, they are not necessarily the book's focus -- they illustrate the book's stories.

"At Work" is a quick read that I'm guessing I'll return to several times. I really appreciate that Ms. Leibovitz has shared the human side of high-end photography. Her journey certainly has been worth reading about, and it makes for a fantastic read.
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VINE VOICEon June 12, 2009
We are absorbed by celebrity photographers, that is, photographers who photograph celebrities and who have become celebrities in their own right. Lord Snowden and Richard Avedon come to mind. (Avedon was so famous that a loosely fictionalized movie musical about him was made: "Funny Face" with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn). Today's biggest celebrity photographer is Annie Leibovitz. She does it all: portraits, news photography, landscapes, nudes.

"Annie Leibovitz at Work" is a collection of her photographs and recollections. There are short chapters ranging between a few sentences and several pages. Each chapter is supported by one or more of the photographer's pictures. They are all here: John and Yoko, Schwarzenegger on the white horse, O.J., Sarajevo.

One might think that the book would provide insights into how Leibovitz gets her vision, or what her internal life is like or at least something meaningful about her subjects. There is a tip of the hat to these matters, but mostly Leibovitz just follows the route of "then I did this, and then I did that, and then I did the other thing." We want insights and we get a peek. In fact, in her musings, she almost suggests that the photograph can't provide us with understanding of the world. I began to wonder if there was no there there.

Perhaps as a sop to those who thought they would learn to take better pictures, or at least something about the photographer's technique, there are two chapters at the end of the book entitled "Equipment" and "the Ten Most Asked Questions". These chapters are as light weight as the rest of the book. Those interested in learning how to take pictures of celebrities or otherwise would be far better off reading the books of authors who have not achieved celebrity status outside of the photographic world like Joe McNally or Michael Grecco.

The book could have redeemed itself with Leibovitz' pictures, except that they are all printed at snapshot size. Her pictures deserve more real estate.

The most telling thing about this book is that nowhere on the cover or title page does it say that Leibovitz wrote this book. Instead, in the back of the book we find the statement "Text based on conversations with Sharon Delano." Let's hope we get better information when the photographer actually writes her own book.
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Annie Leibovitz is a well-known photographer. The first time I came to know of her was her work with "Rolling Stone" in the early 1970s. Later, she did photography for "Vanity Fair" and Vogue." This is an interesting volume. It is not a simple compilation of her photos, a coffee table book. The photos normally have a brief essay surrounding the pictures. Of her time at "Rolling Stone," as her career began, she observes (Page 11): "Being a photographer was my life. I took pictures all the time, and pretty much everything I photographed seemed interesting."

The heart of the book is photographs surrounded by her prose. One illustration is when she was designated the tour photographer for the Rolling Stoners' 1975 tour (I saw the group twice in Buffalo, NY that year--once indoors and once outdoors; what a trip!), although she also shows photos from 1977 (Catch Keith Richards lying down or with his son Marlon). She shows us several photos to give a sense of the tour. One of my favorites is Mick Jagger jumping into the air (see page 32). But it is her observations that make this an especially interesting part of the book, as she provides context for the photos.

Another interesting pair of photographs look at the singer Patti Smith. One photo was taken in 1978 and took place in a very hot room, with the singer sweating profusely (page 123); the other was taken about two decades later after the death of Smith's husband. Both photos capture something telling about the singer, just as the prose adds its own part to telling the story.

There are photos of Leibovitz' family, telling us something about the photographer as well as her family. On page 171, there are just four lines of her words to go with a photo of Susan Sontag, but those few lines are, for me, powerful. Another fascinating part of the book is several views of Queen Elizabeth II. The photos seem to provider a sense of this monarch that go beyond just a representation. And the prose in which the photos are embedded also add to the story. In a sense, as with other sections of this book, the prose and photos have a kind of synergistic relationship (obviously, I like the book by saying this!). The section called "The Road West" has two evocative images from Monument Valley that are most affecting. Other segments of interest: John and Yoko, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Hollywood.

This is a well done volume, wedding some exquisite photographs with the artist's reflections. The two go together well, making this a pretty compelling work.
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Any fan of Annie Leibovitz will want to read and cherish this book. The words and images will mean the most to young people dreaming of having a career in photography who wonder about how she got started.

Annie Leibovitz's photography has surrounded and informed us for so long that it has become part of the landscape, perspectives that we employ and too often take for granted. In Annie Leibovitz at Work, she takes us behind the camera a little to understand her motivations, her family, her career, her assignments, her purposes, and how those iconic images were constructed. I enjoyed the book very much but I found that it had two flaws that bothered me: She is a usually little too coy in holding back details that her disclosures make enticing. The page sizes are too small to properly display the images. The print quality is excellent, but you can only do so much when images intended for full magazine pages or portraits are displayed in 3 inch by 5 inch formats. A minor weakness is that some of the images she talks about aren't portrayed (presumably either a space or a permissions problem, but it is disappointing whenever it happens).

Here are some of the poignant stories in the book:

1. Taking the last portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono before John was murdered.

2. Photographing the Rolling Stones on tour while trying to keep a nervous independence from the parties and the crush of fans at the end of a concert.

3. John Cleese nearly suffocating to get the picture of pretending to be a bat hanging from a tree.

4. Capturing Al Sharpton at the beauty parlor.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger changing his image through her photographs.

6. The story behind the pregnant cover of Demi Moore.

7. Cindy Sherman wanting to disappear in her portrait.

8. Capturing the war in Sarajevo.

9. The slaughter in Rwanda.

10. Posing OJ during his LA trial.

11. The arrogant photograph of the new White House team in town (December 2001).

12. Philip Johnson and his glass house.

13. Agnes Martin

14. Queen Elizabeth

Of the technical details, I was most interested in her descriptions of how she put together multiple shots to appear as one image.

Here are some of the many iconic images in the book:

Richard Nixon leaving the White House, Washington, D.C., 1974
Hunter S. Thompson and George McGovern, San Francisco, 1972
Tom Wolfe, Florida, 1972
Apollo 17, the last moon shot, Cape Kennedy, Florida, 1972
The Rolling Stones, Philadelphia, 1975

Keith Richards, Toronto, 1977
Mick Jagger, Chicago, 1975
Mick Jagger, Buffalo, New York, 1975
John Lennon, New York City, 1970
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, New York City, December 8, 1980

Tess Gallagher, Syracuse, New York, 1980
Robert Penn Warren, Fairfield, Connecticut, 1980
Bette Midler, New York City, 1979
Meryl Streep, New York City, 1981
The Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi), Hollywood, 1979

Steve Martin, Beverly Hills, 1981
Whoopi Goldberg, Berkeley, California 1984
Keith Haring, New York City, 1986
John Cleese, London, 1980
Andrée Putnam, New York City, 1989

William Wegman and Fay Ray, New York City, 1988
Evander Holyfield, New York City, 1992
Willie Shoemaker and Wilt Chamberlain, Malibu, California, 1987
The Reverend Al Sharpton, PrimaDonna Beauty Care Center, Brooklyn, New York, 1988
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Malibu, California, 1988

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sun Valley, Idaho, 1997
Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer, Cumberland Island, Georgia, 1990
Mark Morris, Cumberland Island, Georgia, 1990
Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Paducah, Kentucky, 1988
Demi Moore, Culver City, California 1991

Cindy Sherman, New York City, 1992
Carl Lewis, Pearland, Texas, 1996
Sarajevo, 1993
Soccer Field, Sarajevo, 1993
Blood on a mission-school wall, Rwanda, 1994

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, Los Angeles, 1995
Patti Smith, New Orleans, 1978
Patti Smith, New York City, 1996
Puff Daddy and Kate Moss, Paris, 1999
Ben Stiller, Paris, 2001

Natalia Vodianova, Stephen Jones, and Christian Lacrois, Paris, 2003
Keira Knightley and Jeff Koons, Goshen, New York, 2005
Kirsten Dunst, Versailles, 2006
Cabinet Room, The White House, Washington, D.C. December 2001
Nicole Kidman, Charleston, East Sussex, England, 1997

Johnny Depp, New York City, 1994
Cate Blanchett, Los Angeles, 2004
Philip Johnson, Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut, 2000
William S. Burroughs, Lawrence, Kansas, 1995
Agnes Martin, Taos, New Mexico, 1999

Marilyn Leibovitz, Clifton Point, New York, 1997
Sarah Cameron Leibovitz, New York City, 2002
Susan Sontag, Paris, 2003
Sharon Stone, Angelica Huston, and Diane Lane, Los Angeles, 2006
Kirsten Dunst, Bruce Willis, and James McAvoy, Los Angeles, 2006

Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, Los Angeles, 2006
Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet, New York City, 2006
Jack Nicholson, Los Angeles, 2006
Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace, London, 2007 (4)
Hillary Clinton, New York City, 2003

Take a close look and enjoy!
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VINE VOICEon December 2, 2008
This reviewer and long-time professional and amateur photographer has been waiting for a book containing this information to be published for years. And it's finally here and I for one am very grateful. For years I've wondered how Annie managed to take that incredible picture of a nude John Lennon kissing a fully dressed Yoko Ono while they were both lying on the floor. I had no idea that it was only a single test shot and that it was a Polaroid taken on the afternoon of his murder. That fact alone almost makes me revise my opinion of Polaroid photos. That small Polaroid certainly could be successfully reproduced for other uses.
Interestingly enough, Annie relates how strongly both John and Yoko felt about this image. You'll have to read the book to find out, however, I'm not going to tell.
Another photograph I've always admired was the Whoopi Goldberg picture with her mostly submerged in an old-fashioned bathtub of milk. How in the world did she persuade people to pose in such fantastic situations? Who knew that after only a few frames of her famous portrait of the Blue's Brothers, John Belushi would storm out of the shoot and was so upset with the blue paint she had put on his face that he wouldn't speak to her for six months? The nude profile photograph of a very pregnant Demi Moore was another of those remarkable photos I wanted to know more about. All these and many other nagging questions about the subjects of some of her famous pictures are answered in this autobiographic tome.
Those were only the subjects I was personally most curious about, but I was also interested in how a student in the San Francisco Art Institute who didn't even care much for Rock and Roll music would end up as the photographer for "Rolling Stone." That story had always interested me. How she was asked to go on tour with the Rolling Stones was another riveting tale. To make that coverage even more exciting Andy Warhol and Robert Frank (a photographer who Annie considers almost a God) were also on that particular tour making a documentary film about the Stones. Truman Capote was there too. This was the same young woman who John and Yoko had asked the "Rolling Stones" writer interviewing them "why he had a kid taking all the magazine's pictures?" They were used to being photographed by the most famous photographers in the world. The kid's pictures of them proved to be the most lasting and among their personal favorites.
There is a section in the book about her general photography philosophies and the technical equipment that she used to make her pictures over the years and how it has changed. There is also a section that answers the 10 most often asked questions that people want answered. There is something for everybody.
For a photographer or a "Rock & Roll" music fan, this is a "Must Read." For the average person, it's just a "great read." This is one of the most interesting books about a photographer's life and work that I've ever read and I've read and reviewed hundreds of them.
It was difficult, almost impossible to put aside this page turner once I peeked at the photos and started reading. So many of my long-term questions were answered and I didn't have to die and go to heaven in order to gain that enlightenment. Neither do you, dear reader.
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on December 30, 2012
And AL probably couldn't have written it. She spoke of her work and Sharon Delano, properly credited, edited AL's comments into this wonderful book. Makes you feel like you are in a room talking to Leibovitz. It is a beautiful book to hold and read and AL comes across as a hard-working student of photography who has matured into a modest superstar with unlimited access to celebrities who nonetheless is pulled to photograph life's more substantive subjects. The range of her work is astonishing and her personal stories are enlightening. A wonderful, inspiring book for anyone interested in photography.
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on December 2, 2013
Not nearly as good as advertised. The stories behind the photos are more of what happened when rather than anything a photographer can learn from. If you're more interested in a short historical description of a few selected photos of hers, then this is for you.
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on December 27, 2013
Bought this for my girlfriend who is a photo major. Annie Leibovitz has become one of her top two or three favorite photographers and this book is no exception. Item arrived on time and in the condition described.
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Tina Brown, formerly of "Vanity Fair" supposedly once said that Annie Leibovitz was the Barbara Striesand of photography, inferring that the photographer was difficult to work with. I would sooner say that she is another Barbara, Barbara Walters of photography since after forty years in the business, she is now more famous than many of her subjects.

In her latest book Leibovitz writes extremely well about her life as a photographer from her first job with the magazine "Rolling Stone" as well as her work at "Vanity Fair" and other magazines. She takes a photograph or photographs for each chapter and then writes about that picture, how it came about, what difficulties were involved, anecdotal information, etc. For example, we learn that after she photographed the naked Keith Haring painted like one of his works (from the chapter entitled "Conceptual Pictures") that they actually went outside where she photographed Keith again on the streets of New York. Ms. Leibovitz covers Nixon's resignation, the O. J. Simpson trial, her time as a photographer for the Rolling Stones, Mikhail Baryshnikov's dance company and of course includes chapters on her two most famous images, the naked John Lennon embracing the clothed Yoko Ono and the very pregnant Demi Moore. My favorite chapter is about Leibovitz's photo session with the Queen of England where she puts to rest the rumor that the Queen stormed out of the shoot. Apparently the photographer found the Queen politely grumpy-- well, she is 80 and was wearing clothing that weighed 75 pounds-- but in the end quite delightful. What I found most disconcerting is that Leibovitz-- like practically everyone else-- has finally given in to digital photography. For example in three out of the four photographs of the Queen included here the photographer through the wonders of computers has superimposed Elizabeth on a different background. It is obviously a brave new world where even the professionals alter an image to meet their fancy.

Ms. Leibovitz's conclusions are shared by most photographers: that there is no such thing usually of a photographer's getting into the soul of a model, that she only has a brief slice of that person's life to work with; therefore, one would get the best, most revealing portrait of someone she knows very well. It is no coincidence that one of Leibovitz's favorite photographs is one of her mother. And smiles are almost always phony. The photographer says she has reluctantly come to the conclusion that the cliche that the camera loves certain people is true. "I realized when I studied pictures of Marilyn Monroe that it almost didn't matter who the photographer was. She took charge. It seemed like she was taking the picture." Leibovitz names Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve and Johnny Depp as other examples of people the camera loves in the chapter entitled "Presence and Charisma."

The funniest photograph in this book has to be Al Sharpton sitting under a hairdryer with his hair in curlers at the PrimaDonna Beauty Care Center. One of the cleverest is that of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon photographed in drag in 1995 for "Vanity Fair's first hollywood issue as a tribute to their roles in "Some Like It Hot." My least favorite photograph-- from Leibovitz's first book I believe-- is that of the seventy-five-year-old writer Robert Penn Warren, whom she convinced to take his shirt off. "I wanted to see under his skin, to see his heart beating, his lungs pumping." Apparently, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth who would not venture outside for a portrait, Ms. Leibovitz is good at getting subjects to do whatever she asks. I do not believe, however, that disrobing an old man lets you see inside him.

I own several of Leibovitz's books of photography; this one certainly is one of my favorites. The photographer will almost convince you that a picture is not worth a thousand words. She writes in a free, conversational style that is most seductive and comes across as pretty much ego-free for one whose name and photographs are pretty much household words. She is also free with advice and information-- unlike some famous photographers- for young photographers as she discusses equipment and answers the ten most-asked questions.

I cannot imagine anyone who would not be fascinated by Leibovitz's latest book.

(I meant to give this book five stars but cannot correct my error after I preview my review.)
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