I wasn't aware of the sad situation photographer Annie Leibovitz was in until I read Hol's blog. It brought back a flood of memories regarding three encounters I had with Annie Leibovitz. They were very meaningful for me, though I am doubtful that she would remember me.
After I discovered my love for photography, I also discovered that I enjoyed taking pictures at concerts. I went to a lot of concerts in the '70's. The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, to name a few. I bought a bunch of lenses, from wide to long telephoto, and began amassing a large collection of rock star images. During this period, I was also reading Rolling Stone magazine. I developed an appreciation of Annie Leibovitz work. She was the Chief Photographer for Rolling Stone. In fact, she was the sole staff photographer for the magazine. All other photographs were done by freelancers. Ms. Leibovitz was primarily a portraitist, not a concert photographer. Her work was highly controlled in every aspect. I don't remember her ever taking a concert photo, though I may be wrong. Her work was special and highly regarded, and the rich and famous began seeking her out to do their portraits.
At some point I thought, how great would it be if I could get a job working for Annie Leibovitz! I already had a large number of rockstar photos, and thought that would be my foot in the door. Not so easy, as I learned the hard way.
Encounter Number One:
One day, around 1978, I was on a flight to San Francisco to visit a cousin and his girlfriend. I had an aisle seat on the plane. Looking over to my right..directly across the aisle from me, was sitting Annie Leibovitz! I couldn't believe it..still can't 30 years later. Her own picture was rarely published in those days. She preferred anonymity. But I, being slightly obsessive about working for her, had seen it. I became suddenly bold, (not like me). “Excuse me?” “Yes?” “Are you Annie Leibovitz?” She seemed a little surprised, and annoyed. “Yes I am.” I then blurted out my life story, and ended with, “would you mind if I sit next to you?”. Who was acting like this, I don't know what came over me, but I felt with every fiber of my being that this was not just coincidental. I mean, she was sitting FIVE FEET FROM ME ON A PLANE! She hesitated a few moments and said something like: “I guess that would be okay.” I was there in a flash. She was surrounded with 35mm cameras. Top of the line Nikons. I don't remember all of our conversation, but I do remember that it was mostly me chattering away. Then the plane started to show the movie. It was 'Network'. She said: “I've never seen this.” I kept chattering. After a short time, she said there was a Nikon rep on the plane she wanted to talk to, and she left me sitting there. I thought to myself, this is my destiny, I'm not giving up so easy! I went back in the plane where she was sitting and said something like: “Here's my card, can I come to your office in New York and show you my portfolio?” She agreed, said I didn't need an appointment, and I left her alone and went back to my seat. I was on cloud nine, she probably felt like she was in hell.
Encounter Number Two:
Cut to a few months later. I put my suit on, put my best rock pics in a portfolio case, and took the train to Grand Central. I got to the Rolling Stone offices, walked up to the receptionist, and said: “I'm here to see Annie Leibovitz.” The receptionist dutifully asked: “Do you have an appointment?” No, I met her on a plane to San Francisco, and she told me to just come here and that I didn't need an appointment.” She looked at me like, sure that happened. At that moment, the elevator doors behind me opened, and Ms. Leibovitz steps into the lobby! HAHA! Another sign of my destiny! I belted out: “Hi Annie! Remember me? We met on the plane!”. She looked at me, then at the receptionist, and said: “Yes I do, it's true.” I gave the receptionist my best smirk. But things went less well after that. Annie was working on Rolling Stone's anniversary issue and did not have time, (or didn't have any interest in), looking at my work. She did take me to her office, and there were piles of her photographs, on the top was her first cover for the magazine, a picture of John Lennon. It was thrilling just to be in there. So I left, feeling both triumphant and disheartened. I tried making an appointment to see her again, but some underling said: “It's not gonna happen.” Screw you underling. But it didn't happen.
Encounter Number Three:
Several years later, I had a successful career as a professional photographer. Walking into my local camera shop..there was a lot of excitement. There was a photographer on the phone. She was at Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richard's house, and her light meter either had broken or she forgot to bring it. The shop didn't have the meter she needed, so they asked me to talk to her. I got on the phone. She asked: “Do you have this light meter?” I said I did, back in my office. “Can you drive it out to Keith Richard's house?” (he lives about a half hour away) I said I could. A minute later she said: “Thanks but nevermind.” I said okay and we hung up. I had no idea who I had been talking to. A moment later, someone who worked in the shop said: “Who's Annie Leibovitz anyway?”