I am watching a documentary on Annie Liebovitz last night (thankful for a quick reminder from a friend), on TVO for their photography month, and was totally blown away.
By her photography, right? Her approach to her subjects? Her philosophy on seeing? Her absolute over the top disregard for budget in her shoots? Her desire to bridge popular culture and the responsibility of seeing?
I was reduced to tears by her love affair with Susan Sontag.
How she photographed through the most joyful, private and heartbreaking of times. How she, through the eye of her camera, chronicled a friendship, love, life and death. There seemed to be no seperation between her life and her art…that each somehow would have been incomplete without the other. How incomplete Annie must have felt upon losing Susan to cancer. The photographs of Susan in illness and death, taken by Annie, could have been gruesome ( and I am sure some do find them so ). I think it would have been odd had Annie not photographed those closing hours and days of her dear, dear friend. It seemed a natural way to make real the loss she was feeling.
And loss is always sadmaking. But somehow, how Annie approached it, made sense to me.
I remember the surrealness of my own father’s death and funeral. How now I wish that I had photographs that could refresh the truth of his having been here. To have been able to capture the love that was so obvious for myself and my sisters and mother, one last time. I was too young and this is not a regret…just a thought as an adult ( the same age now my mom was when my father died ) that these moments are so fleeting, that any chance to freeze a moment of love should not be missed.
And this week I have freaked myself out totally with the idea of death. Again. So this stark, truthful sharing of loss and pain and beauty in the face of death just touched me.
I do not think Annie Liebovitz is an easy, gentle, soft person. I really did not know much about her prior to this documentary aside from recent articles on the decline of her wealth due to her own overspending and her ( often icon making ) work in Vanity Fair ( oh how I love VF ). She is obviously a talented, creative woman, likely difficult to work with due to the same strength of personality that made her so successful. The celebrity part of the documentary did not do much to wow me.
It was her way of being so sure that she needed to capture these moments in her life that awed me.
There was no drama in the shots that mattered most to her, and they were the most beautiful. Her shots of Sarajevo and of her family and, of course, of Susan were spectacularly simple and honest.
I find myself apologizing for it often, my constant image taking. But in seeing Annie’s wall of photographs, a mix of work and play and love and death, her whole life splayed out and displayed…it confirms that it did happen. That the joy did exist. Does exist. Can exist.
And that made me cry. And not feel so panicked in my desire to not miss a moment of joy in my life, and for my family and friends. And to not regret seeing this way. Because I worry sometimes that I use my camera as a buffer against loss. As a way to stand just a little bit back from what is going on in the name of not missing a thing, but in reality simply not becoming involved because when the the inevitable loss happens…well, then it won’t hurt quite so much.
Well, it will…but hopefully there will be a peaceful solace in what is left behind.