Imagine: Season 11, Episode 3

Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (10 Jun. 2008)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
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Barbara Leibovitz's intimate biography of her sister the photographer Annie Leibovitz.


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Title: Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (10 Jun 2008)

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Episode credited cast:
Alan Yentob ...
Himself - Presenter
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Herself (archive footage)
Ruth Ansel ...
Herself (as Hillary Rodham Clinton)
James Danziger ...
Bea Feitler ...
Herself (archive footage)
Vicki Goldberg ...
Mark Holborn


Barbara Leibovitz's intimate biography of her sister the photographer Annie Leibovitz.

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Release Date:

10 June 2008 (UK)  »

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A version of this film appeared previously on the US series 'American Masters' (PBS) See more »

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User Reviews

A work not fully thought through...
8 August 2008 | by (South Africa) – See all my reviews

The simple truth of the matter is that the name Annie Leibovitz echoes through popular culture, so much so that it was only a matter of time until a documentary was published on her in some form. Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens, just so happens to be the title of a documentary undertaking and whether you are a fan of Leibovitz or not, this film is worth a look.

The documentary is structured in four ways: there are the candid interview segments, but these are infused within footage of present commissioned work by Leibovitz, her meeting with a publisher, and her history. This all sounds rather overwhelming, but in reality, it proves a simple integration which is easy for the audience. This complex structure make the documentary far more interesting to watch then it perhaps is. It doesn't follow in a linear pattern, moving from past story to current work, to interviews and so forth, and the director, Barbara Leibovitz, must be commended for making the entire experience gel together. However, that doesn't stop the documentary having a very outdated feel, with the camera used, at last for modern footage, seeming somewhat low key. It is a problem, but a minor one in the entirety of the film.

The film is more geared towards those who know little about Annie Leibovitz, as the information presented does seem to be the sort which is knowable by anyone who has followed her career, or were diligent enough to search for information about her. Yet the film does work as a collective, allowing all the integral information about her life to be condensed. And what is presented is interesting nonetheless, such as Leibovitz early days traveling with the Rolling Stones, and how she developed into a more mature photographer after various influences in her life. It all makes for a good story of self-discovery, and really puts her later work, such as the Miley Cyrus incident, into perspective.

That aside, the documentary could have been better. It's 86 minute runtime really needed to be longer so as to flesh out what is presented. Considering that Leibovtiz is one of the most celebrated photographers of our time, its a pity to see so little in terms of celebrity participation in regards to interviews. The documentary is directed and written by Leibovitz's sister, and so the overall direction is questionable. This facet could be seen to make for a more personal experience, but Barbara Leibovitz comes across as far too distant, and as such, the issue of subjectivity is still apparent. It is as if Barbara didn't wish to seem biased and so detached herself from the subject, but doing so doesn't make her come across as objective either. It's a very tricky sort of situation, but one that would have been best solved by allowing herself to be more part of the documentary.

There are a few blasphemous terms but besides that, the only other objectionable content comes in the form of an array nude pictures.

Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens is an interesting documentary that deserves a watch, but if one were not interested in any of the subject matter, its very difficult to convince them to try this out. Sadly the film suffers from being underexposed, and not elaborate enough. There's not enough celebrity support, not enough information, not enough runtime. For a photographer with the caliber of Annie Leibovitz's, this documentary is a bit of a shame.

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