Rolling Stones, Rolling Stone Magazine, Richard Nixon discussed on The Frame
Think of any pop culture icon from the past fifty years, and they've probably been photographed by Annie liebowitz, although much of her background is in reportage storytelling through photography. She's known best for her portraits and cover photos for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, she's photographed musicians actors poets and politicians alike from John Lennon to Meryl Streep to Richard Nixon. She was even spotted at a recent Beto Aurora rally. Now her early work is on display at Hauser and Wirth gallery in the arts district of downtown LA. The show is called any leave of it's the early years nineteen seventy to nineteen Eighty-three archive project number one, and it chronicles her work at Rolling Stone magazine and her transformation from a photo journalist to a portrait photographer. I took a walk through the exhibition with leave of its last week. And we started with a nineteen seventy antiwar demonstration where she'd taken pictures of Alan. Ginsburg and Eldridge cleaver. She was studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute at the time. And I asked her how she went from paintbrushes to cameras I took a night class in photography and just found a photography as a young person so much more gratifying and immediate and it just felt right? And the people were a lot friendlier in the in the in the photo department, and then the painting the painting was pretty abstract and pretty angry. You know, it was the Vietnam war and the school was on the GI Bill. Of course, there were a lot of soldiers coming to going to school and a lot of drunk teachers, and it was a little scary for seventeen eighteen year old kid. And so the camera was very grounding every novelist can probably remember the first piece of writing that he or she sold every actor. Can remember the first part that they got paid for is there an image in this room that you can remember being one of the? I that you got paid for and which one I did not paid much. That's for sure it doesn't matter. But actually, it was not for free Rolling Stone. The breakthrough moment was really this work that I did at this rally in San Francisco is anti-war rally this one here. This actually was a cover of Rolling Stone. The my first cover of Rolling Stone. Well, I know where this is the university of California Berkeley. That's right. That's right. What really was impressed. With is. This happened the day before I went back to the school the day of the demonstration process, the film printed it and brought it into Rolling Stone the next day. And they were so impressed that because it was a very young magazine. It was a fold up rag paper. And so they just started giving me work to do. And and then I talked my way into going to New York with yon winter. He wanted to do an interview with John Lennon about the break up of the Beatles. And they were really special. Johny yoko. They couldn't believe Jahn brought young winner brought a kid to have their picture, and they were impressed with that with yawn. I think and they gave me carte blanche. It was a really important because it was set the precedent for what I expected how to be treated from then on out. I think what a lot of people don't remember from that era. It's not just Rolling Stone. But look in life magazine were seriously committed to photography, they would commission photographers, they really embraced photography as a form of journalism, and they gave photographers a lot of leeway to do what they wanted to do. And you were really in the right place at the right time in many ways that was certainly some of the photography that I admired so much. Listen, I want it to be a photojournalist. You know, when I started working for Rolling Stone. I wanted to leave behind the fine art work. I was not a good photojournalist. So I was going to have to tell more more my story from my point of view and left journalism behind an. Eventually turn to portraiture because it was a way of sort of having real licensed to do what you wanted in a photograph and not worry about crossing over to the other side. When I look at these pictures, there is a candor to them that seems like a relic that in some ways the way that celebrities or anybody controls his or her own image right now is so tightly choreographed. Yeah. You can't like you were I don't know if you just kind of embedded yourself. So they forgot about you. How did you get this kind of access because the world was different? But also have a feeling you had a way to make yourself disappear into their world. You know, I it really it was a different time and people were more open to just you know, letting you be there. I mean things are much more control now, and I'm trying to bring back the photo essay now, and it's really hard because just for that kind of thing. I did a cover story on Lena wait for Vanity Fair. And. I just told her what I wanted to do. And she said, okay. But that's rare. I mean, I just kind of hung in her house while she worked in Rhode and took a few pictures and went in and out. I mean, it's it's not like there for twenty four hours. We just go in and out of someone's life. I'm trying to incorporate some of that with people who will give us that. I just worked on a on a politician that that I had that kind of access that'd be better work. I can't say. Poker faces. I wanna play a good game. What is it about politicians that is unusual or interesting that maybe you don't find in celebrities? Well, my day in in the early work. They really had no idea about. What it was like to be photographed what it meant like they were just kind of like they had no idea. What what anything was? And and it was kind of like a free for all you could really just. I mean here you're seeing them Nixon resignation. But you know, it wasn't so locked up. You know, now like any well known person, it's hard to get this kind of access one of the things I love about some of these pictures like the resignation of Nixon. I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. My recollection is you took all these pictures. And I want to say was hunters Thompson who is supposed to file the copy. And he messed his deadline. That's the story. And so you just ran photos because there was no copy. It didn't make deadline. He was at the Washington Hilton by the pool with a battery powered television set. And so we leave in good spirit, and with deep humility and t- never made it over there for for Nixon going off and Rolling Stone had held open like eight to twelve pages waiting for story to file and they ended up taking my pictures, just blowing them up. So is the first time Rolling Stone really use photography at you know, in a big way we're talking with any liba. It's about her show that early years nineteen seventy to nineteen Eighty-three archive project number one. How do you move from being a photo journalist to somebody who takes portrait's is? There are natural evolution as something. You learn in report Taj that you can do in portraiture, I think that's one of the sub stories in this show is is that you you get to see that you get to see this kind of sketching that think what I said, I was became a portrait photographer. I think doing the covers in the magazine is sort of pin you down to doing a moment with with your subject. And and I wanted them to be very good photographs and they became good portrait's. And they, but they were totally fed by by these pictures. Well, let's talk about what we're looking at. We're looking at a wall of pictures that are taken during a Rolling Stones tour backstage onstage hotel rooms. Well, let's let's put this in context in ninety seventy two. Robert Frank was the tour. He did film. Chris blues for the Rolling Stones. And you know, I went to two or three cities on that tour.