Annie Leibovitz began her creative life like so many other photographers of her generation: with a basic SLR camera and some black-and-white film.
Years before she set a standard for inventive portraiture, Leibovitz was an art student shooting pictures of her life and family, showing a flair for the stylishly raw and playful, inspired by her love for the pictures of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. When a little-known magazine called Rolling Stone hired her in 1970, she brought that same eye to pictures of rock stars and filmmakers, the 1972 presidential campaign trail and a shotgun ride with literary outlaws Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.
Her first years of work are the subject of the exhibition “Annie Leibovitz. The Early Years, 1970-1983: Archive Project No.1,” on view Feb. 14 through April 14 at the downtown L.A. gallery of Hauser & Wirth. Nearly 4,000 photographs have been selected and tacked to the walls by Leibovitz in an obsessive deep dive into her formative years.
“You realize that’s the work you have to put in to become a great artist,” gallery senior director Stacen Berg said. “It demonstrates the obsession of a young photographer, a young artist who is developing her eye and unique style. She is taking in everything.”
The show is a new installation of a project initiated at the LUMA Foundation’s Parc des Ateliers in Arles, France. It includes famous faces like John Lennon and Andy Warhol, and also self-portraits and less familiar scenes from San Francisco and the road. It’s part of an ongoing look back for the photographer, including the recent book from publisher Taschen “The Early Years.”
“Things happen in front of you. That’s perhaps the most wonderful and mysterious aspect of photography,” Leibovitz wrote of those days of discovery in her 2008 book, “At Work.” “It seemed like you just had to decide when and where to aim the camera .... That’s still true.”
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‘Annie Leibovitz. The Early Years’
Where: Hauser & Wirth, 901 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles
When: Opens Feb. 14; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; ends April 14
Information: (213) 943-1620, HauserWirth.com
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