Annie Leibovitz: A Life in Pictures and Fashion Design

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

February 23, 2007

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Annie Leibovitz, perhaps one of the best known portrait photographers of our time, has enjoyed a very successful career in fashion. She's not a fashion designer or fashion editor, but her pictures of models and celebrities arguably do as much to sell the most notable fashion and lifestyle magazines as the content inside.

Her pictures sell magazines, and celebrities will line up to have their picture taken by her, says Anna Wintour of Leibovitz in a recent PBS television documentary celebrating the photographer's life. But what makes her photography so great and so unlike that of any other fashion photographer?

Leibovitz Before Her Career in Fashion
Leibovitz got her start early, but not that early. She always had an interest in creative, artistic activities, but it wasn't until college that she picked up a camera. She took an almost immediate liking to it, and within a short time began taking pictures for a new magazine called Rolling Stone.

After a long stint at Rolling Stone, Leibovitz began doing more fashion design-related work, taking pictures for Vanity Fair and eventually becoming one of the regular contributors to Vogue. She did the cover shot of Kirsten Dunst to promote her film "Marie Antoinette." She also took the famous "green" picture of Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and a band of other eco-conscious actors on the cover of Vanity Fair, seeking to make a statement about the environment.

Where Photography and Fashion Design Meet
But how much of this has to do with fashion, you might ask? A lot, many in the industry would likely argue. After all, great cover shots sell magazines, and that's what every fashion editor, fashion designer, and anyone else with a career in fashion wants. Great photography is a communication and advertising tool for the fashion industry. They use it to sell a look, a lifestyle, or an attitude, all of which can be obtained through the purchase of featured clothes, handbags, or accessories.

Fashion Photography School
The question remains - for a career in fashion like Annie's, should you attend fashion school or photography school? You may not have to choose. Some fine art programs may allow you to focus on photography while you take courses at the fashion school. Just make sure the fine arts program you choose has a fashion school as well as a fine art or photography program.

About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer specializing in career development and postsecondary education.

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