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For the week of Nov. 10, 1999 through Nov. 16, 1999

Annie Leibovitz on women

The Vanity Fair and Vogue photographer makes women the subject of her latest book

Express Staff Writer

Could we be perched on what will one day be called the Millennium of the Woman? After flipping through the pages of Annie Leibovitz's new book of photography, Women, the answer is doubtlessly "yes."

For over 25 years, Leibovitz’s portraits have graced popular magazines. She began her exceptional career as a photographer for Rolling Stone and now has a longstanding relationship with Vanity Fair and Vogue.

The portraits in Women, taken especially for the book, reveal the diversity of women today and speak to an ongoing revolution in the status of women in America.

But that doesn’t mean that all of the women Leibovitz captured are triumphant, empowered and content. Indeed, readers can expect the unexpected when turning the pages of Women. In the studio and in natural settings, Leibovitz got up close and personal with an array of women.

She depicts actress Christina Ricci reclined on what might be a hotel bed wearing panties, smoking a cigarette, and looking pensive and, on the following page, philanthropist Brooke Astor looking resplendent in her New York home.

She shows musician Melissa Etheridge with her companion, music video director and screen writer Julie Cypher, and their two children, Bailey and Beckett Cypheridge, naked and smiling blissfully. A less wholesome picture of maternity shows Jerry Hall—wearing a fur coat and high heels—nursing a naked Gabriel Jagger.

She shows three teenage members of the West Side Crips all-girl gang hanging out on a stoop in San Antonio, Texas. With their dark lipstick, football jerseys, baggy jeans, basketball shoes and bandannas, they look menacing. But a closer look at their eyes reveals something else, a profound sadness.

A page before the Crips, at a conference table in front of a map of the world, sits Claudia Kennedy, Lieutenant General U.S. Army and Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence at the Pentagon, in uniform, clinching her armchair and smiling sheepishly.

She depicts the model Waris Dirie looking poised, whose story, along with all of the women photographed for the book, is told briefly in the back of the book. Dirie grew up in Somalia and at age 5 underwent infibulation, which involves the removal of the external genitalia and the narrowing of the vaginal opening. She got discovered by a photographer while scrubbing floors in a London McDonald’s and has since been photographed widely, including as one of Revlon’s "Most Beautiful Women." In 1997, she became the special ambassador for the elimination of female genital mutilation for the United Nations Population Fund.

"Each of these pictures must stand on its own," writes Susan Sontag in the essay that accompanies the photographs. "But the ensemble says, So this is what women are now—as different, as varied, as heroic, as forlorn, as conventional, as unconventional as this."

Women arrived in most local bookstores last week.


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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.