Organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, this exhibition charts a new direction for one of America’s best-known living photographers; unlike her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines and advertising clients, the photographs in this exhibition were taken simply because Leibovitz was moved by the subject. She made two separate trips to New Mexico to photograph O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, the landscape at The Ghost Ranch and the “Black Place,” and in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum vault.
The photographs, while not containing people, are in a certain sense portraits of subjects that have shaped Leibovitz’s distinctly American view of her cultural inheritance. Visiting the homes of iconic figures, including O’Keeffe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Pete Seeger and Elvis Presley, as well as places such as Niagara Falls, Walden Pond, Old Faithful and the Yosemite Valley, she let her instincts and intuitions guide her to related subjects—hence the title “Pilgrimage.” The images speak in a commonplace language to the photographer’s curiosity about the world she inherited, spanning landscapes both dramatic and quiet, interiors of living rooms and bedrooms, and objects that are talismans of past lives.
The exhibition, which includes photographs taken between April 2009 and May 2011, is making a national tour to 8 museums (a full list and dates can be found here), which opened in January 2012 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
“Annie Leibovitz’s Pilgrimage is much like Georgia O’Keeffe’s work in that it captures a place in time with such evocative power and emotion that you cannot help but feel the connection, the deep sense of place,” said Rob Kret, Director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. “We are honored to have her work here and feel that it truly commemorates and compliments the ongoing ‘Georgia O’Keeffe and the Faraway: Nature and Image’ exhibition with paintings and photographs of O’Keeffe’s most beloved and inspiring locations in the Southwest.”
“From the beginning, when I was watching my children stand mesmerized over Niagara Falls, this project was an exercise in renewal,” said Leibovitz. “It taught me to see again.”
“Pilgrimage” is an evocative and deeply personal statement by a photographer whose career now spans more than 40 years, encompassing a broad range of subject matter, history and stylistic influences. Together the pictures show Leibovitz at the height of her powers, unfettered by the demands of her career and pondering how photographs, including her own, shape a narrative of history that informs the present.
THE LECTURE: Leibovitz will discuss her work Tuesday, February 12, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in downtown Santa Fe. Tickets will be available at www.lensic.com or
THE BOOK: The accompanying book, published by Random House, which includes photographs, also includes an introduction by noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Pilgrimage is available for purchase ($50) at bookstores nationwide and the museum’s store.