Annie Leibovitz's "WOMEN: New Portraits" And The Un-Objectification of Women

Mar 26, 2016

Annie Leibovitz has an exceptional talent for highlighting truth and beauty, and that talent could not be more present than in her new exhibition WOMEN: New Portraits.

Annie_Leibovitz-photo credit Robert Scoble Wikimedia Commons

WOMEN: New Portraits is the next iteration of Leibovitz's iconic WOMEN series. This show gives Leibovitz the opportunity to express her own thoughts and opinions, rather than staying behind the journalistic wall of unbias. The exhibit includes:
  • Misty Copeland - you know her as the American Ballet Theater's first African American principal ballerina
  • Jane Goodall - anthropologist
  • Amy Schumer - comedian
  • Sheryl Sandberg - Facebook CEO
  • Gloria Steinem - author (and friend to Anna Kendrick)
  • Taylor Swift - singer
  • Malala - Nobel Laureate
  • Leibovitz's mother
And many more, including both the famous and the unsung. Leibovitz says, "In the new work, I don't want to separate one person from the rest. It's like they need the sisters around them to sorta tell the story."

Wait, rewind. What story?

This show is about women. Real women, not the objectified versions of ourselves we see on Carl's Jr. ads. As Liebovitz says, "We're not just the three or four or five clichés we see." The story in WOMEN: New Portraits is the uncliché - the representation of women who are shaping politics, entertainment, education, and business.

WOMEN: New Portraits is about women as we are, in all our diversity and strength. Is this a new perspective? Leibovitz seems to think so. She says, "There isn't enough imagery of women just as people, you know? And I think that's what was what was so surprising when the original work came out... I don't think we had a very clear idea what we looked like, and there was a lot of clichéd imagery of women."

The good news is that we're beginning to recognize and change this. The objectification is still there, but it's beginning to be a part of our national conversation.

Remember when Terry Crews (of Brooklyn Nine-Nine) came out about his porn addiction? That was amazing. He stated the problem with objectification perfectly, "People become objects, people become things to be used... You start to think that, you know, you're the man, and they're just, you know, whatever." When his wife told him she was leaving, Crews realized that the objectification had real-world consequences. He had the courage to change and to speak to others about it.

If you look, you'll see these changes creeping up in your daily media consumption. Like that tear-jerker #LikeAGirl video. Or the Pantene commercial that calls out how we use "like a boss" for men and "bossy" for women. The Dove Campaign for Real BeautyNike's #BetterForIt... we're starting to see a movement.

So why is WOMEN: New Portraits important? Because Leibovitz has removed the objectification, yes, but it's more than that. Because she's able to show us as people. The photographs aren't about who we're hoping to be. They're about who we are.

This exhibition is financed by UBS in a lovely example of a profit-driven business doing good. You can see pictures from the exhibit here. The show is free, you can visit through April 17th at Crissy Field at the Presidio in San Francisco.

Photo credit: Robert Scoble from Half Moon Bay, USA (Annie Leibovitz at her SF exhibition) [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

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