In our line of work as illustrators we all use photography to a lesser or greater extent. Some illustrators, like myself, have a very stylized technique where our use of photography may be merely inspirational, while other artists I know have photo studios, set up models with costumes and lighting while others actually go as far as to paint directly on top of photographs. There is no wrong way to work, but whatever way you do illustration it's unlikely that photography has not played at least a small part in your work. Despite our effusiveness of Caravaggio or Sargent its arguable that modern photography has been as important (or more) than painters in our vernacular as contemporary artists. I realize that I have not highlighted a single photo artist yet so I hope to start today.
When I think of photographers who influence art there are Steiglitz, Adams and Sherman, but few who I can see more of a direct impact to our contemporary fantasy illustration aesthetic than Annie Leibovitz (1949-) Born a baby boomer in middle class America Annie traveled around the world with her Air Force family taking photographs and later studied painting in San Francisco in the 1960’s. Taking a job with Rolling Stone in the Seventies and later with Vanity Fair in the 1980’s Leibovitz became the foremost portrait photographer in America. Her early art education is well evidenced in her use of lighting and composition infusing her images with a classical elegance that seems almost Baroque. Her painterly use of the figure sumptuously draped in color and an attention to detail that captures a stark reality of her often fantastical tableaus is remarkable. In her portraits she is able to capture the essence of the person’s character by use of body language, detail, lighting and sometimes in a candid unposed moment, which is the real art of any photography.
Today, Annie Leibovitz is one of the most sought after and copied photographers in the world both by photographers and artists alike. The next time you are leafing through the latest edition of an illustration annual take a look at how many beautifully composed images look uncannily inspired by Leibovitz and you can begin to see her influence.
**Please leave a comment below or DM on what artists you’d like to see me explore. Remember, this column is for artists who are outside the illustration field that you feel we may be overlooking as illustrators.