Saturday, 18 July 2009

photos of form: the Annie Liebovitz exhibition

After an excellent lunch in Artemesia, possibly the only vegetarian and no-smoking restaurant in Madrid, we wandered over to Alcala 3 to see the Annie Liebovitz exhibition. The show included photos from both the public and private aspects of her life - so photos of celebrities and the siege of Sarajevo sat alongside intimate, informal portraits of her family and friends, most notably the writer Susan Sontag, whose death from cancer was movingly documented here. At times these small, unpolished, black and white photos seemed at odds with the huge, colour prints of various celebrities posing (or, in Jim Carrey's case, mugging) for the camera, but I guess that was kind of the point: how small, unglamorous events hold just as much significance for the photographer and their craft as the large commissions that mark their progression in the public eye.

However, as a member of the public, necessarily disconnected from Liebovitz's private life, I was naturally drawn more to the pictures of people and places that I recognised. Some portraits were merely technically excellent photographs, but with little by way of narrative. Others however, through superb use of form, provided more than just a proficient portrait but seemed to deliver an opinion from the artist herself. Two marvelous portraits of the Trumps and the White Stripes spoke volumes about their subjects. Our favourite though was probably the one above, which is even better at near-life size, the subjects projecting grace and control from the print. The exhibition is open until September 8th - if you're in Madrid we really advise going to see it.

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