Why I love NYC: Annie Leibovitz
The famous shutterbug tells us which spots in the city inspire her.
Tue Dec 13 2011
Photograph: Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz made her name snapping portraits of rockers and movie stars for glossy magazines. But her legacy was in jeopardy in summer 2009. She was at the edge of financial ruin, having to leverage the rights to her work to pay off debts. During this difficult time she began to reminisce about conversations she had with her late partner, author-activist Susan Sontag (who died in 2004), on places they wanted to see and people they admired. Late that summer, the 62-year-old artist started crossing the country, shooting the spots they had discussed, from Niagara Falls to Ansel Adams's darkroom in California. Those photographs, along with anecdotes and essays about the locations, became Pilgrimage, Leibovitz's latest book. On Thursday 15, she will discuss her tome, as well as her creative process, at the 92nd Street Y. In light of the book's theme, we asked her what local places kindle similar reverence.
White Horse Tavern
"I was looking for a place to photograph Peter, Paul and Mary, for one of the last pictures taken of them together before Mary died [in 2009]. I was thinking about one of the clubs they might have sung in back in the '60s and couldn't really find a place. At the last minute, I decided to use the White Horse Tavern as a fill-in location. Mary walked in and she said, 'Oh my gosh, I sang here when I was, like, 15 or 16 years old, and I couldn't drink, so I drank Coca-Cola.' I had shivers up and down my spine." 567 Hudson St at 11th St (212-989-3956). Sun--Thu 11am--2am; Fri, Sat 11am--4am.
The Mall and Literary Walk, Central Walk
"I wanted to photograph [the mall] during all four seasons, and I did actually get two of the four—[winter] with the snow and the spring. Having always lived around there, when I moved downtown, the only thing I missed was the park. I now drive my children to school, and we drive up through the park, and they all chime out together, 'Here's Mommy's favorite part of the park. Here we are, we're getting there to the alley.' And we get there, and it's magnificent." Enter at Fifth Ave and 72nd St (212-310-6600, centralparknyc.org).
The High Line
"[The High Line] is hard to describe unless you actually get on it. It gives you a different perspective. I noticed when you get on it in the West Village, you really see the community. You see a landscape of the buildings you can't see any other way." Enter at Washington St at Gansevoort St (212-206-9922, thehighline.org). Daily 7am--7pm.
Margaret Bourke-White's Studio, Chrysler Building
"[The Life magazine photographer had a studio on the 61st floor overlooking] one of the gargoyles, which I had the privilege to haunt a couple of times. But they closed that down. I might have ruined it for everyone, I think. It was amazing to be up there on those gargoyles. The views of New York are not necessarily [about] getting up to the highest place and looking down. You almost want to be midheight, looking out." 405 Lexington Ave at 42nd St
Staten Island Ferry
"The Staten Island Ferry is still a great ride. I love looking back at the city from the water. I think I've always seen the city almost from far away, not close up. But I also feel a sense of history on the river. It's changed dramatically, the West Side particularly. Some days, I think, is this Seattle or Miami, or where are we? But that's exciting." Staten Island Ferry Terminal, South St at Whitehall St (siferry.com). Daily 24hrs; free.
"I had the privilege of walking up the Brooklyn Bridge to the top with one of the bridge workers. I got there thinking there must have been an elevator in one of the structures. They said, 'No, no, you have to walk up this tubing,' and I said, 'You're kidding. I can't really do it.' I got about halfway up, and you're hooking yourself on like a mountain climber, and I just said, 'No, I don't have to prove anything. I don't think I really wanna do this.' The worker said, 'C'mon, you're halfway up,' and he actually talked me into walking all the way up to the top. It was amazing. I drive by it now with my children, who say, 'Yes, Mommy, we know you walked to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge.' They're tired of that story, too." Enter at Park Row and Centre St