Photo credit: Julia Ioffe
[via The New Yorker ]
Security camera footage of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects
Leibovitz’s observation seems to fall apart, however, when these two points are placed side by side. Even if you love photography done by careful professionals who know what they’re doing, it’s hard to shake off the notion that pictures non-professionals take can have just as much power. This is certainly true in the above examples: the pictures of the Tsarnaev brothers came from security cameras, and Julia Ioffe snapped her shot of the boy on the bike hastily, with her phone, while reporting on the protests during Putin’s inauguration for The New Yorker.
In the past year, professional photographers — especially in the news media — have by all means accomplished great things. Many cite Pablo Martinez Monsivais’s AP photo of Obama embracing a victim of Hurricane Sandy as instrumental to the president’s successful re-election. But I doubt photographers of Leibovitz’s ilk could be placed in the same category.
Whereas Leibovitz’s reputation has rested on her cover shoots — specifically, her meticulously arranged portraits of celebrities — the rest of the world has gone in a different direction. Whether we like it or not, we now look at photographs under the influence of hyper-sharing, and tend to appreciate them the most if they at least appear to be spontaneous, uncontrived, and unrehearsed.
In this environment, Leibovitz’s ostensibly “racy” and “original” shoot of Miley Cyrus was both irresponsible and, as Hamilton Nolan wrote in Gawker, boring. The most memorable facet of her portrait of Queen Elizabeth was that neither sitter not portraitist got along, and her campy approach to Hurricane Sandy in Vogue was less than inspiring. Way less. If Annie Leibovitz can no longer provide a coherent statement on the state of her profession, that’s probably because she’s increasingly becoming irrelevant to it.