Photographer, Annie Leibovitz has been creating stunning celebrity portraits since she took her first job at Rolling Stone magazine back in 1970. Leibovitz was hired on as a staff photographer, but only after two years she was promoted to the position of chief photographer. It was during her days at Rolling Stone that Leibovitz begin to develop her signature style of what many explain to depict daring poses and bold color usage. It is from these days that Leibovitz has created iconic covers for not only Rolling Stone, but Vanity Fair and Vogue as well. Leibovitz’s portraits are always recognizable as they are able to capture the subject in a beautiful, yet vulnerable state. Leibovitz has photographed celebrities, presidents and other cultural icons. She states her job best in an interview with GQ back in 2011, “There are moments in my work when I know that the subject is at the pinnacle in their life, and I feel responsible to take a photograph of them that will last.” Here is a list of 20 of the best celebrity portraits that were taken by renowned photographer, Annie Leibovitz.
20. Whoopi Goldberg – 1984
Comedian and actress, Whoopi Goldberg was photographed by Leibovitz in 1984 for Vanity Fair. According to NPR, the shoot was inspired by one of Goldberg’s comedic stage routines at the time and the gallons of milk that were needed for the shoot were first warmed on the stove and then poured into the tub. Leibovitz is quoted as stating that when she saw Goldberg get into the milk-filled tub and stick her tongue out she thought, “this is graphically amazing, and interesting and we took that picture.”
19. Angelina Jolie – 2011
Leibovitz photographed actress, Angelina Jolie for high-end designer, Louis Vuitton’s “Core Values” campaign in 2011. The actress posed with her own monogrammed Alto bag along with wearing her own clothes for the photo shoot. The fashion house has stated that Leibovitz greatly contributed to the campaign with her impeccable photographs.
18. Michelle Williams – 2011
Actress, Michelle Williams channeled Hollywood bombshell, Marilyn Monroe for her photo shoot with Leibovitz that was featured in Vogue in 2011. Williams had already perfected the character since filming, My Week with Marilyn, which was released that same year.
17. Scarlett Johansson & Keira Knightley – 2006
In 2006, actresses, Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley bared it all for Leibovitz for the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue. Fashion designer, Tom Ford also appeared in the shoot, as he was originally the guest art director. Ford didn’t plan on becoming part of the shoot, but when actress, Rachel McAdams backed out at the last minute, he needed to fill in.
16. Charlize Theron – 2011
Actress, Charlize Theron’s beauty was captured by Leibovitz for Vogue’s 2011 December issue. The five-foot ten, beauty was featured in a Marchesa pale-blue tulle gown at Bushkill Falls, which is located in the Pocono Mountains, in Pennsylvania.
15. Leonardo DiCaprio – 1998
Leonardo Dicaprio was photographed by Leibovitz for Vanity Fair’s January 1998 issue. The actor was just beginning to embrace his heartthrob status with the release of Titanic a month prior.
14. Judi Dench and Helen Mirren – 2007
Leibovitz photographed actresses, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren for Vanity Fair’s March 2007 Hollywood portfolio issue. Dench and Mirren are just a few celebs that were featured in Leibovitz’s photos with the theme based off of old Hollywood crime dramas for that portfolio.
13. Lindsey Vonn – 2013
Leibovitz was able to capture the true essence of Olympic skier, Lindsey Vonn with this Narciso Rodriguez, silk dress caught up in the air. Vonn was featured in Vogue’s August 2013 issue, discussing her recovery from her crash at the world championships earlier that year and her relationship with Tiger Woods.
12. Kirsten Dunst – 2006
Channeling Marie Antoinette, actress Kirsten Dunst was photographed by Leibovitz for Vogue’s September 2006 issue. The photo shoot was in anticipation for Dunst’s movie, Marie Antoinette, which was released one month later.
11. Al Sharpton – 1988
Leibovitz photographed Al Sharpton in 1988 at the PrimaDonna Beauty Care Center in Brooklyn, New York. She explains that she was supposed to photograph Sharpton in the studio, however when his office called and said he would be late due to getting his hair done, she decided to find him and photograph him there.
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger – 1990
This picture was captured in 1990 when Leibovitz was photographing Arnold Schwarzenegger for the cover of Vanity Fair. The horse pictured with Schwarzenegger was his actual pet horse and even though the photo was an outtake, it was featured in the March 2003 issue of Vanity Fair.
9. LeBron James & Gisele Bundchen – 2008
When Leibovitz photographed NBA star, LeBron James and supermodel, Gisele Bundchen for the cover of Vogue for its April 2008 issue, controversy arose. Many people believed that cover perpetuated racial stereotypes by comparing the photo to the image of King Kong and Fay Wray. Vogue dismissed the idea, stating that the cover was made to represent two stars that were on top of their game.
8. Meryl Streep – 1981
Leibovitz photographed actress Meryl Streep for the cover of Rolling Stone in 1981. In an interview, Leibovitz explained that Streep’s white, mime face makeup helped the actress cope with her uneasiness of having her portrait taken.
7. President Barack Obama – 2006
This portrait of President Barack Obama and his family was featured in Vogue’s September 2007 issue. Leibovitz photographed the First Family back in 2008 when President Obama was serving as the junior senator of Illinois.
6. Queen Elizabeth II – 2007
In 2007, Leibovitz received the honor to be the first American invited by the Palace to take an official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. In a Vanity Fair article, Leibovitz explains how there was controversy after the shoot took place by the BBC, claiming that the Queen walked out of the photo shoot, which was far from the truth. In fact, the photographer notes that the Queen is devoted to her duty and did not leave the shoot until Leibovitz said she was finished.
5. Miley Cyrus – 2008
Controversy arose once again for Leibovitz when she photographed then 15 year old, Miley Cyrus for Vanity Fair. Many believed that the photo was too risqué since it appeared as if Cyrus was wearing nothing but a sheet. Leibovitz has commented that she felt the photographs were beautiful and it was unfortunate for Cyrus to have been made to feel bad for taking them.
4. Demi Moore – 1991
Leibovitz set the standard for all pregnancy bump photos when she shot the controversial photo of seven months pregnant, Demi Moore. Liebovitz has explained in an interview with Vanity Fair that the photo shoot began under the pretenses of Leibovitz disguising Moore’s pregnancy for the magazine’s cover photo. However, when the photographer suggested the nudes, the photograph had what Leibovitz says, “a life of its own.”
3. Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi – 1979
Leibovitz photographed Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in their roles as the Blues Brothers for the cover of Rolling Stone in 1979. Leibovitz has talked about how Belushi and Aykroyd were not excited to have their faces painted blue as they felt it was “offensive to the wonderful black musicians in the band.”
2. Mick Jagger & Keith Richards – 1975
It was Leibovitz who captured the photograph of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for their first cover of Rolling Stone together. Leibovitz had gone on tour with The Rolling Stones that year, which gave her access to just about every part of the band. Jagger is quoted as stating that Leibovitz had their permission to shoot everything since they were confident that she would not use photos that they did not care for.
1. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – 1980
This Rolling Stone cover has been ranked as the number one magazine cover of the last 40 years. Leibovitz captured the iconic image of John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono just a few hours before his death on December 8, 1980. Leibovitz has called the image a striking portrait and is “an excellent example of how circumstances change a picture.”