Annie Leibovitz, On the Trail of Bygone Celebrities

©Annie Leibovitz--From "Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage." Something on TV got Elvis Presley all shook up. Leibovitz took this photo in a storage room at Graceland.

New work by Annie Leibovitz goes on exhibit today at the American Art Museum in Washington, DC., and it’s only distantly related to the celebrity portraiture she’s so famous for:  Leibovitz has turned her camera on the personal effects and ephemera of celebrities from bygone eras, especially notable women.

The exhibition, called “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage,” includes 60 personal images she shot from 2009 through 2011 while traveling around the US and elsewhere. Among the images are landscapes, but the images of things left behind by famous people are the draw.

Those images include a photograph of Louisa May Alcott’s dolls; a close-up of a something-of-hearts playing card signed by Annie Oakley, with a bullet hole that the famous markswoman put through one of the hearts; an Emily Dickinson dress; and Georgia O’Keefe’s pastels. Famous men are also represented: Leibovitz includes a photograph of TV set that Elvis Presley shot through with a large-caliber bullet sometime in the 1970s.

Leibovitz is a celebrity herself because of her commercial portraits of so many icons of pop culture.  But she has published and exhibited several personal projects in the past, notably images of her parents and her partner, the late Susan Sontag, and compiled much of it in her book “A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005.”

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