Annie (Anna-Lou) Leibovitz was born on October 2, 1949 in Westbury, Connecticut to Sam and Marilyn Leibovitz.
In 1967, Annie Leibovitz enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute to study painting. She became interested in photography about the time of her Sophomore year, and she changed her course of study. In 1970, fresh out of college, she got a job with the new start-up magazine Rolling Stone. From 1973 to 1983, she held the position of Chief Photographer. At Rolling Stone she developed the style that she is known for, which has come to include unusual poses, elaborately staged settings, and plenty of bright primary colors. She photographed rock and roll celebrities such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith. During her stint at Rolling Stone she shot 142 cover shots.
In 1983, Annie Leibovitz moved to Vanity Fair magazine, which gave her access to a wider range of celebrity subjects. That same year, she published her first book, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs, which was a companion book to a show of 60 of her prints, which toured Europe and the US. It was at Vanity Fair that she photographed Whoopi Goldberg naked in a bathtub of milk, and Demi Moore naked and pregnant.
In 1986, she began doing commercial work, for such clients as The Gap, Honda, and American Express, which earned her a Clio award in 1987.
Annie Leibovitz met Susan Sontag when she was hired to Photograph Sontag for the book AIDS and its Metaphors, in 1989. Sontag became an important friend and influence on Leibovitz. The two carried on a romantic relationship that lasted until Sontag’s death in 2004.
In 1991 Leibovitz had her first museum exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and released a companion book of 242 photos, Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970-1990. The show then went on tour for 6 years.
Annie Leibovitz was the official photographer of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Before the Olympics, she photographed many of the athletes in training and released a book of the photos, Olympic Portraits, which included Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.
In 1999, Annie Leibovitz published a book of her photos of women, titled Women, which also featured an essay by Susan Sontag. In 2006 she released the book A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005, derived from a show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which includes her personal photos along with her celebrity portraits. Leibovitz called it “a memoir in photographs.”
In 2001, Leibovitz gave birth to a daughter named Sarah. In 2005, via a surrogate mother, she had two girls named Susan and Samuelle, named for Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz’s father, Samuel.
In 2008, Annie Leibovitz was again the center of a controversy for her portrait of Miley Cyrus, which appeared in Vanity Fair. The photo shows a side view of Miley Cyrus wrapped only in a sheet, with a bare back turned toward the camera. Some thought it was too sexual for a photograph of a child. Leibovitz defended it, saying that it had been misinterpreted.