Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage charts a new direction for one of America’s best-known living artists. Unlike her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines and advertising clients, these photographs were taken simply because Leibovitz was moved by the subject. The exhibition, including 78 photographs, taken between April 2009 and May 2011, will be on view at the Columbia Museum of Art October 4, 2013 through January 5, 2014. The CMA is the only exhibition presentation in the Southeast. Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage is an evocative and deeply personal statement by a photographer, whose career now spans more than 40 years, encompassing a broad range of subject matter, history and stylistic influences. The work shows Leibovitz at the height of her powers and pondering how photographs, including her own, shape a narrative of history that informs the present.
“These pictures may surprise even those who know Leibovitz’s photography well,” guest curator Andy Grundberg, former New York Times photography critic, said. “They are more intimate, personal and self-reflective than her widely published work, combining the emotional power of her recent black-and-white portraits of her family with an awareness of her own cultural legacy. All photographs are in a sense intimations of mortality, but the pictures of Pilgrimage make this connection explicit.”
Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage took Leibovitz to places she could explore with no agenda. She wasn't on assignment. She chose the subjects simply because they meant something to her. The first place was Emily Dickinson's house in Amherst, Massachusetts, which Leibovitz visited with a small digital camera. A few months later, she went with her three young children to Niagara Falls. “That's when I started making lists,” Leibovitz said. She added the houses of Virginia Woolf and Darwin in the English countryside and Freud's final home, in London, but most of the places on the lists were American. The work became more ambitious as Leibovitz discovered that she wanted to photograph objects as well as rooms and landscapes.
“From the beginning, when I was watching my children stand mesmerized over Niagara Falls, this project was an exercise in renewal,” Leibovitz said. “It taught me to see again.” The pictures, although there are no people in them, are portraits of subjects that have shaped Leibovitz’s distinctly American view of her cultural inheritance. Visiting the homes of iconic figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Pete Seeger and Elvis Presley and places such as Niagara Falls, Gettysburg and the Yosemite Valley, she let her instincts and intuitions guide her to related subjects—hence the title Pilgrimage.
Presenting Sponsors: Aflac and The Chapman Family Charitable Trust
Supporting Sponsor: Susan Thorpe and John Baynes
Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Bernie Stadiem Endowment Fund provided support for the exhibition. The C.F. Foundation of Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.