Sunday, October 29, 2006


Annie Liebovitz was in Washington, DC last week promoting her new book, A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005. There was a great interview with her on the Diane Rehm radio show and a fantastic profile in the Washington Post. I went to see her at Politics & Prose with a friend. We arrived a full hour in advance of the scheduled talk and the book store was packed. It was like going to a rock concert that had been sold out, but still people showed up without tickets, hoping to hear and see the star. With standing room only, we hung out next to the bookcase housing books on Africa, but then moved into the overflow room where the literature is housed. There was no way to position ourselves in the bookstore to see the presentation. We were lucky enough, however, to see Annie Liebovitz emerge from the elevator and greet the full house graciously and kindly while tossing her iconic hair. She read from the introduction to the book. My companion and I left early on in the evening because without a place to sit and a temperature in excess of eight-five degrees it wasn’t set up to be a pleasant evening, and, truth be told, my main objective was to lock eyes on her. I wanted to see her for myself and try and understand if she is indeed a lesbian.

The assumptions behind that statement alone are substantial. First, that a lesbian could be decoded from a look; second, that I could do the decoding. Still, that is what I did. And the answer? The answer? I don’t know. What I do know is that Annie Liebovitz and Susan Sontag had a long-tem relationship that was intimate and meaning. Liebovitz talked about that with Diane Rehm and in the Post profile. I know that she is not comfortable with the label of ‘lesbian’ nor is she comfortable speaking about her relationship in the terms and language that lesbians use. While for most of the first week after I saw Liebovitz and read these things, I felt that she was basically a lesbian and deeply uncomfortable with her sexuality. Now I feel that, while that is true, there is also an element of resistance by Liebovitz in talking about her sexuality and the construction of her intimate relationships; I think that she resists easy categorization and the conventions of lesbians in discussing our lives and our relationships. Part of me wants her to accept the label and speak openly as a lesbian; part of me wants her to carry on the resistance to push us to something new.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See the interview at:
"With all due respect to Susan," Leibovitz says, "we never liked words like 'companion' or 'partner.' Susan never used them. I never used them." The couple never lived together, but they were indisputably soul mates. "It was a relationship in all its dimensions. It had its ups and downs. ... I mean, we helped each other through our lives."

"Call us 'lovers,' " Leibovitz says. "I like 'lovers.' You know, 'lovers' sounds romantic. I mean, I want to be perfectly clear. I love Susan. I don't have a problem with that. I just had a problem with 'partner' or 'companion.' It just sounds like two little old ladies."