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Issue Date: May 2004 Issue


Facing the Music

For photographer Annie Leibovitz, settings are just as much a part of the picture as the subjects.

Ωt's no surprise that she shot Bonnie Raitt in silhouette, fine-tuning her guitar. But instead of snapping the photo in a posh greenroom, Leibovitz had the R&B singer perch next to a rusty sink in a decrepit dressing room at The Bottom Line in New York City.

She posed folk diva Emmylou Harris not on a state-of-the-art sound stage, but in a place that's true to her Southern roots: a field in Franklin, Tenn. Leibovitz was right at home with R.L. Burnside: She captured the blues artist surrounded by his family During an impromptu performance at his house in Holly Springs, Miss.

From May 27 through Sept. 6, these photographs — along with more than 60 others — will be on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. They're part of American Music[ a retrospective of Leibovitz's work curated by the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

2 professional photographer for more than 30 years, Leibovitz has made musicians a major focus of her portfolio, first as chief photographer for Rolling Stone, now as a contributor to Vanity Fair and other noteworthy publications.

"There's great grace in Annie's work," says Vanity FairBdesign director David Harris, who's worked with Leibovitz on the magazine's annual music issue as well as a variety of other projects. "My impression is that she's always going after the truth, and she employs the landscape and environment to get it. Her use of aesthetic beauty leads to a great portrait."

American Music chronicles Leibovitz's four-year, cross-country journey to document the people and places that have shaped our musical heritage, from Johnny Cash to Iggy Pop, Duane Eddy to Eminem, Bruce Springsteen to Mary J. Blige.

Jim Henke, the Rock Hall's vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs, credits Leibovitz with changing the face of rock 'n' roll.

"Before Annie Leibovitz, rock photography was a lot of stark black-and-white photos or a bunch of guys just standing around," Henke explains. "She made it really come alive by producing vivid color images and putting artists in situations that would bring out their personalities."


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