There aren’t many photographers for whom the likes of Keith Richards, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Patti Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Anna Wintour will happily roll out the pleasantries.
But this documentary is about Annie Leibovitz, the army child from Connecticut who marched arm in arm with Jann Wenner and Hunter S Thompson at Rolling Stone in the ’70s, photographed the Lennons, went on tour with the Stones, flew through the revolving doors of rehab and landed the gig of chief snapper at Vanity Fair, court circular to the bold and beautiful.
It’s for Vanity Fair that the 58-year-old continues to buzz around the globe to shoot expensive set-ups of celebrities who are more than willing to fall at her feet. ‘Budget [doesn’t enter] her consciousness,’ deadpans Wintour. ‘She’s famous for taking pictures of famous people,’ offers Clinton, accurately if not very incisively.
The director of this documentary is the subject’s sister, so in true Vanity Fair style, it’s a profile that cuts deep into the surface. It’s a celebration, and a breezy, entertaining one at that, even if it never stops to finish a tale. The planning of a new book gives the film a structure to add to its chronological sweep, and there’s a moving episode that dwells on Leibovitz’s 15-year relationship with Susan Sontag, who died in 2004.
It was Leibovitz, of course, who photographed the Queen for the ‘less dressy’ moment that sparked the BBC ‘faking it’ scandal last year. That doesn’t appear here (shame!), but that’s not surprising: this is an affectionate insider-job that aims hard to please.