Friday, September 12, 2008

Annie Leibovitz, Wonderland Celebrity Image Critique

Annie-Lou Leibovitz was born October second 1949 in Waterbury Connecticut. Her father was a military man and she started taking her first photographs as her family moved around for the air force. Now days she is know for her celebrity photographs, as well as her photography of everyday people and family. Her photos are often controversial and attention grabbing. She shoots a number of different types of commercial photography including: expressive, documentary, portrait, and fashion. To date she has produced three books of her work as well as being the chief photographer for Rolling Stone, and doing a large volume of work for Vogue and other clients. 

The photo I chose to critique is one that she shot as an advertisement series for Disney Theme Parks. The subject of the image is a scene from Alice and Wonderland. The photo features Oliver Pratt as the Mad Hatter, Beyonce Knowles as Alice, and Lyle Lovett as the March Hair. The three of them are spinning through wonderland in a teacup.
The photo is quite dynamic and gives an intense since of movement. Oliver Pratt is focused in the foreground. Because of the movement in the picture, the lines that makeup his outline are quite blurry and unfocused. His facial features and the interior of his clothing however are very clear and crisp and give the eye an easy focal point to start with. If it weren’t for the triangular arrangement of the other two figures, it would be very easy to stop on the Hatter and not move around and explore the rest of the shot. Behind the Mad Hatter, Alice sits, blurred and looking almost plastered to the teacup. Her face shows uncertainty with the situation. Her bright blue dress and white apron are a huge contrast to the Hatters dark maroon coat. It helps move your gaze back to her, and around the picture plane. Alice sits in the middle ground of the image, not as far back as the scenery and other teacups, but not as close to you as the Hatter. Next to her is Lyle Lovett as the March Hair. His blue necktie (a very similar shade to Alice’s dress) plus your eye toward him, and his patterned suit invites you to continue to analyze him. The whirling teacup turns his outfit into an optical illusion. Behind the trio the landscape whizzes by, Leibovits has done an excellent job of showing motion with a still photograph. Other teacups spin behind them and the whole background is distorted like a room in a fun house.
I think that a lot of the accomplishment of this shot is due to the amazing vibrant colors Leibovitz captured. In grayscale, or even just using colors that were less saturated, would have greatly decreased the success of the shot. The highlights of Alice’s apron, and the deep velvet of the Hatters coat really attract your attention as well as giving the photo variability and interest. The variety of texture also adds interest. Her dress is a shimmering silk, the teacup appears smooth, the Hairs suit looks like it would almost be scratchy to the touch, while the Hatters over coat is so obviously made of the softest velvet. The spinning background is made up of middle tones, helping you to assign the photos subjects a hierarchy of importance. The lack of clarity and focus also ads to this. The line of teacups converges into the background leading your eye back to quickly scan the insane landscape, and then move back to the fore and middle grounds.
Leibovitez did an excellent job of creating the interest and wonderment in her photo. This image (along with the other shots in this series) is an attempt to renew interest and involvement in Disney’s Theme parks. While I cannot say how successful it was as an advertisement, as a picture I think it is a hit. Curious angles, attention grabbing colors, high contrast, and tangible textures make this my favorite shot of the series. As with most of her photography it grabs my attention, and keeps me involved.

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