[UPDATE: The exhibition opens in Hong Kong this on June 3rd]
Annie Leibovitz’s Women: New Portraits exhibition opens in Singapore tomorrow having shown in London, Tokyo and San Francisco. and before moving on to cities such as Hong Kong and London. The show features Leibovitz’s new photographic portraits of prominent women such as Sheryl Sandberg and Malala Yousafzai as well as highlights of the renowned photographer’s (female) back catalogue relayed on digital screens. Chopstix caught up with her in SG:
*I was working with UBS on a commercial project and they asked me ‘Is there something you’d like to do?’ I thought about adding on to the original Women’s project in 1999 which I did with Susan Sontag. I was really reluctant to do it back then. I thought it was too big.
*But an idea I was interested in at the time was showgirls in Las Vegas. I went out to the casinos and picked out several showgirls to come into the studio the next day for The New Yorker. The first girl came in looking like that [she points to a photo of an ordinary looking woman in plain clothes.] I was taken back. I took photographs of the women before and after and it was an intriguing set of images for me. It made me think about how women dress up to be women.
*One of the women I shot for the first Women’s project was Hillary Clinton who was then the First Lady. The project was choc full of women from all walks. It was very, very diverse.
*What is important to me is that you could read about the women photographed. The biogs are little haikus about these women.
*On the screens [showing a rotation of Leibovitz’s work] I’ve thrown in the kitchen sink. There’s a whole load of photographs I’ve taken of women.
*It’s a work in progress. I’m working on taking more photographs for the exhibition this year. I’m hoping to photograph, don’t laugh, Kim Kardashian. We’re also trying to arrange Venus and Serena Williams together.
*When we did the sitting with Zaha Hadid I remember I didn’t think it was very good. Zaha died and I went hack to my files and I love them. So I put them in the show. They’re not the most flattering pictures of her but they are strong.
*It’s incredible that in the 75 year history of the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland is the first black prima ballerina. She’s more atheletic than ballerinas of the past so she’s breaking lots of boundaries. She has lovely shoulders. I do love this, she’s so beautiful.
*I photographed Elizabeth Warren who said ‘blow up the banks”. I was free to photograph who I wanted [for this UBS exhibition].
*When I photographed Caitlyn Jenner for Vanity Fair it was an amazing sitting because we weren’t thinking about the magazine cover. We were helping this person get to the next place in their life. It was overwhelming how she was received, it was a big deal. I had no doubt she would be on this wall. I asked her permission to use an out take and she said yes.
*There is no end to this project. How can it end? I really like it though, I’m really enjoying it.
* It’s a little Hollywood centred at the moment. A particular weakness in the wall is [the lack of] women’s issues. We’ve been trying to get into a refugee camp for a long time and we’re finally going in with Malala [Yousafzai] this summer.
*I would like to photograph Angela Merkel. We’ve had a letter back that says unfortunately she’s very busy.
*When I have photography students in I’m brutal with them. I tell them it’s not about waiting for someone to give you a job.
*If you want to be a photographer, don’t think it’s a dead art because everyone’s taking photographs now. You have to think about what you’re trying to say with your pictures. It’s completely different to taking a picture with your iphone. Which by the way is fantastic.
*I’m very lucky, I started working for Rolling Stone magazine when I was 19 years old. Then Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. So I’ve always had a vehicle.
*When I was young I thought my subjects were lucky to be in my pictures. Then I grew up and realized the sitter is important.
*That’s why I’m interested in Kim Kardashian. I love pop culture as much as I love Gloria Steinem. I love a mix.
*I’ve never been interested in celebrity. I’m interested in what someone does. I’m not just interested in what they look like, I’m interested in what they do.
*When I was asked to shoot the Pirelli calendar I said no, it’s not going to work. You can’t go from being a girly calendar to one about distinguished women.
*Then my studio asked a couple of women and they said yes. People I would never have expected to. So I drew up a list and I asked some of my friends – Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Amy Schumer… – for favours.
*I told Amy Schumer you have to be the joke, the only one who didn’t get the memo to not take your clothes off.
Women: New Portraits by Annie Leibovitz is on at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station from April 29th – May 22nd 2016. Entrance is free.