Photographer Annie Liebovitz is known for her portraits of celebrities: Demi Moore, naked and pregnant, on the cover of Vanity Fair; John Lennon and Yoko Ono curled up in bed, on the cover of Rolling Stone. At the New-York Historical Society, Greeters saw a dramatically different side of the photographer.
In 2009, after the deaths of her father and her life partner Susan Sontag, Liebovitz was seeking solace and healing. So she took her camera across the U.S. and England, capturing places and objects of celebrities, instead of celebrities themselves.
And oh, the stories her photos told. Martha Graham was an American dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared to Picasso’s influence on painting. The warehouse in Yonkers which stores items from her studio was the title photo for the exhibit: a stack of dirty trunks and boxes lent a special poignancy since Graham had been the epitome of movement and glamour.
We saw bold photos of Thomas Jefferson’s lima beans in his garden at Monticello, his Virginia home. Jefferson used this garden as a lab for his ideas about an agricultural economy, eventually cultivating fifty varieties of beans!
Poignancy was a recurring theme. We viewed pictures of President Lincoln’s bloody gloves after his assassination. We saw a photo of the River Ouse near writer Virginia Wolfe’s English home. One day she filled her pockets with stones, then walked into the river and drowned.
The exhibit was not without humor. Elvis Presley’s Graceland home had a picture of a television set with a bullet hole through the screen. (He didn’t like the show.) We loved a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt’s home called Val-Kil, where she went to escape her domineering mother-in-law. The steel and glass home of English doctor, Edith Farnsworth, came with a great story. Farnsworth commissioned architect Mies van der Rohe to design the house, but ended up suing him because of constant leaks and floods!
These were heartfelt pictures that moved Annie Liebovitz. They affected us the same way.