“I would say we once knew that people were people – we weren’t divided,” said Gloria Steinem, a surprise speaker at the preview for Annie Leibovitz’ exhibition of new portraits revealed earlier today . “The whole idea of gender has restricted everyone, but Annie has restored full humanity in these portraits.”
Women: New Portraits at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station is a touring exhibition of new work that continues a popular project Leibovitz started with Susan Sontag in 1999: Women. The original series of portraits included both famous and non-famous women, figuring notable names like Cindy Sherman, Patti Smith, Hilary Clinton and Yoko Ono. Incidentally, Ono and Smith also recently appeared in the 2016 Pirelli calendar shot by Leibovitz.
The 22 new portraits feature women such as Lena Dunham, Adele and Caitlyn Jenner. Many of these photographs depart from the cinematic style of celebrity portraiture Leibovitz shoots for Vogue and Vanity Fair, and are of a far more intimate nature. The portrait of Steinem at her desk is just one example of Leibovitz’s desire to shoot these women in what she called “their cockpit.”
The Women project is also a work in progress, and will continue to grow over the course of the coming year as the show tours ten cities, with Leibovitz photographing women in each. Blank spaces have been left for these forthcoming portraits, which are set to include Marina Abramović, and Venus and Serena Williams.
Commenting on how the new portraits are intended to reflect changes in the world since 1999, Leibovitz pointed out that a public transgender figure like Caitlyn Jenner would not have been part of the initial project. “I worry for Caitlyn because she has a long way to go,” the photographer said.
As for the woman she would like to shoot most, Leibovitz said she was “trying hard” to get a sitting with Angela Merkel.
Women: New Portraits at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station opens to the public 16 January.