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Culture » Book Talk

Getting Behind the Camera

Annie Leibovitz is, of course, a photographer, not a writer. That's why her new book, At Work, might surprise some who crack the 240-page hardcover



Annie Leibovitz is, of course, a photographer, not a writer. That's why her new book, At Work, might surprise some who crack the 240-page hardcover and find that the vast majority of the pages are covered in black type, not the iconic images the esteemed American photographer has captured over her 40-year career.

Fear not, there are plenty of photos to behold in the book. But this isn't a coffee table book, rather a platform for Leibovitz to tell the stories behind the photographs she's taken over the years. At Work provides priceless tales of Leibovitz's work with some of the most well-known individuals in the world - ranging from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Queen Elizabeth, and damn near every major rock star you can think of.

Leibovitz is full of stories, but not gushing with flowery prose, which probably isn't all that shocking. Still, her tales of a life behind the camera are priceless, especially when she recounts her experiences shooting for Rolling Stone. She tells of riding shotgun with Hunter S. Thompson during the height of his anti-Nixon rage and accompanying Tom Wolfe as he documented the space program, reporting the bedrock for his book The Right Stuff. She spent weeks with the Rolling Stones, eventually earning some remarkably candid images of Mick Jagger and company.

The book is likely endlessly intriguing to both amateur and professional photographers as Leibovitz outlines the methodology behind her photos. At times, Leibovitz goes into great details about her equipment, lighting techniques and other facets of photography. This is of interest to photographers, but probably few general readers. Of broarder appeal is the in-depth, behind-the-scenes looks at the iconic individuals she's photographed. A passage about shooting Carl Lewis at the height of his track and field career details how the Olympian's body was in peak shape. Leibovitz frames Lewis as an artwork of human machinery, rather than just an athlete. And her account of shooting the famous image of a nude John Lennon curling up next to Yoko Ono just days before he was murdered puts a story behind one of rock and roll's most known images.

Leibovitz doesn't use this book to dazzle us with her words, or her photos. What she does is let the reader join her behind the camera. - Mike Bookey

At Work

By Annie Leibovitz

Random House

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