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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 10/10/2007

All Eyes on Annie (And Brad. And Demi...)

By Julia Beizer

Annie Leibovitz speaks about her recent project like she's embarrassed that she's just revealed too much.

"The show really came out of this book, which was really a moment in my life," she said at yesterday's very crowded press preview for "Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life," an exhibition that opens at the Corcoran on Saturday. "As I brace myself to face it again and as time passes, I think 'What was I doing? What did I do? [How I] put myself out there like that.'"

Walking through, all people who have ever made themselves vulnerable will see why she feels this way. Not all of her photos are glamorous. Next to all the big, bright, bold images of Demi Moore's pregnant belly, sexy, pre-Angelina Brad Pitt, and Jack and Meg White in carny gear are snapshots that serve as small windows into her private life between 1990 and 2005. Small photos of war-torn Sarajevo, intimate family moments and sadder shots of her longtime partner Susan Sontag bracing for chemotherapy show a personal side of the celebrated photographer.

With celebrity-laden exhibits, there will always be some die-hard art fans who bemoan the blockbusterization of the museum scene. But I don't see this show as some brazen attempt to get starstruck visitors through the door without any respect for the art. "I like being, at times, that documentarian" of our time, Leibovitz said yesterday. Like it or not, pictures of Johnny Depp, Al Pacino and Scarlett Johansson are as much a record of our age as those she took of Clinton and Bush in the White House and the Queen of England. (The Corcoran is the first venue on the tour to show Leibovitz's portraits of the Queen).

And while those coiffed familiar faces are the ones that draw us in, the pictures that really speak are the intimate shots the photographer snapped of her loved ones. It's here that she gives us a raw, fleeting glimpse of what it's like to be human -- even as the best-known photographer of our time.

Getting a good look at the art was nearly impossible in yesterday's packed preview, but from what I saw in the dozen pictures I was able to absorb, the show definitely warrants a longer visit -- yeah, one that I'll actually pay $14 for. Keep in mind that one ticket also grants admission to the permanent collection, the Ansel Adams show and the Jeremy Blake exhibit, which opens on Oct. 27.


By Julia Beizer  | October 10, 2007; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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