From Freud’s Couch to Emily Dickinson’s Only Surviving Dress: Annie Leibovitz Catalogs Meta-Cultural Iconography
What Virginia Woolf’s writing table has to do with Darwin’s countryside cottage and Freud’s final couch.
By Maria Popova
Annie Leibovitz is one of today’s most prolific and celebrated photographers, her lens having captured generations of cultural icons with equal parts admiration and humanity. Unlike her other volumes, her latest book, out today, features no celebrities, no luminaries, no models. Instead, Pilgrimage is Leibovitz’s thoughtful meditation on how she can sustain her creativity in the face of adversity and make the most of her remaining time on Earth. The quest took her to such fascinating locales and pockets of cultural history as Charles Darwin’s cottage in the English countryside, Virginia Woolf’s writing table, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home, Ansel Adams’s darkroom, Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress, and Freud’s final couch.
The kernel of the idea came before Leibovitz’s partner, the great Susan Sontag, died — the two of them had planned to do a book of places that were important to them, which they meticulously compiled in lists. Years after Sontag’s death, upon visiting Niagara Falls with her three young kids, Leibovitz decided to start her own list and do the book on her own.
From the beginning, when I was watching my children stand mesmerized over Niagara Falls, it was an exercise in renewal. It taught me to see again.” ~ Annie Leibovitz
Dominique Browning paid Leibovitz a visit to chat about the book and has a lovely piece about it in the Times.
I needed to save myself. I needed to remind myself of what I like to do, what I can do.” ~ Annie Leibovitz
An intimate catalog of cultural meta-iconography, Pilgrimage is as much a photographic feat of Leibovitz’s characteristically epic proportion as it is a timeless cultural treasure chest full of mementos from the hotbed of 20th-century thought.
Images courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times
Published November 8, 2011