How Annie Leibovitz revealed Kendrick Lamar's inner visions
Having shot Jagger and Lennon, Annie is capturing the musical voice of a new generation for Vanity Fair
Annie Leibovitz has photographed astronauts and Presidents, but, at the beginning of her career, she knew where her true interests lay.
“I couldn’t believe that my job was to photograph musicians,” she remembers thinking in the early 1970s. “I was a fan. When I was a student I had worked for a disc jockey, Edward Bear, at KSAN, a free-form radio station," Annie explains in her new book Annie Leibovitz At Work. "He had the 2 AM to 6 AM slot. I would make tea and pull records for him. He did great mixes. He would segue into Aretha Franklin or Etta James from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Because there was no advertising in the late time slot, his mixes could go on forever.”
You could say that open-minded approach informed Leibovitz’s rock photography. Consider her photograph of Mick Jagger standing in a hotel elevator, wrapped in towels after a concert, or John Lennon, naked beside wife Yoko, just hours before his murder.
Leibovitz has moved with the times, shooting Patti Smith, Sean ‘Puffy’ Coombs, Kanye West, and, earlier this year, the Grammy-award winning LA rapper Kendrick Lamar.
Annie shot Kendrick for the cover, to accompany a piece by her long-standing friend and colleague, the journalist Lisa Robinson. This image, from our new book Annie Leibovitz At Work, presents a kind of inner vision of this hugely introspective, thoughtful MC, by projecting a portrait onto her subject, an additional photo of Lamar Leibovitz had taken just minutes earlier. It’s a simple, effective timely shot that surely ranks alongside her images of Mick and John, in which she captures the voice of a new generation.
To see more of Annie’s work and understand how her career has developed order a copy of Annie Leibovitz At Work here.