Exhibition review: Annie Leibovitz:Women: New Portraits

Exhibition: Photography

Title: Annie Leibovitz:Women: New Portraits

Theme: Women

Venue: Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, London.

Date attended: 25th January, 2016

Curator: Annie Leibovitz

Location, setting, atmosphere:

As we entered we were told that we could not take photos with our cameras.  Could we take them with our phones?  Yes. So we did.

The former power station is a cavernous venue which could have dwarfed the exhibits had they been just framed and mounted prints, but they weren’t.  The prints, in A4 or A3,  were pinned up on to an exhibition stand totally informally, with a brief write-up about the subject on a board next to the massed portraits.          IMG_1285.jpg

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Apart from the stands, there were also projected image stands which were much bigger and more imposing.  These were the images you could not touch.  There were vast windows above the stands which meant that when you looked up to the images, you were blinded by the light.

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The chairs were arranged in a semi-circle so that people could discuss what they saw which was a good idea.

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Off the main hall, there was a reading room which was heated so rather packed with visitors!

3 positives about the setting:

  • great & adaptable space.
  • it was very informal & so you felt closer to the images
  • it was great to be able to sit & leaf through the books by Leibovitz and others

1 negative response:

  • the light from the windows was blinding at times.

Example of work: The piece which meant more to me than others was of a person she could not have photographed, in fact it was not her photograph at all:it was an image of the desk of Virginia Wolf photographed by Susan Sontag in 2003:

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I really liked her composite image of Cindy Sherman (1992):

IMG_1290.jpgHighlights:

  • the informality of the presentation and location
  • the projection of many images in loops meant you could think about them before you saw them again
  • that photographing a significant artefact of a person (in this case Virginia Wolf) is just as valid as photographing a face
  • making up composite images of a subject gives the viewer the chance to see many facets (!) of the subject and therefore present a wider portrait.

What I took away with me about the work:

  • the informality of the location and of the way some of the subjects were placed does not detract from the seriousness of the photographer’s intentions
  • the beauty, bravery, creativity of a person is sometimes only seen in photographs
  • often art galleries and museums, where photos are kept, do not encourage talking but this did
  • we see unique women but we are aware that we are seeing them through Leibovitz’s eyes

What I took away with me about my work:

  •  I constantly shy away from portraiture because of what I see as examples set by iconic portrait artists. Leibovitz has opened up the repertoire by showing women, brave, not always self confident, in a different light.
  • the OCA maintain that for assessment, ‘presentation is everything’.  Te assumption is that polish is the key.  This exhibition showed me that how you present your work depends on what you are trying to say.

Notes & next steps:

  •  vary the space
  • vary presentation format
  • use my curiosity about people and place to determine what image I take rather than go out with a specific end in mind.

Star rating: 4* – the light stop viewers from seeing the images on the screens.

 

 

 

 

 

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