In camera

Annie Leibovitz teams up with Gloria Steinem to take ‘Women’ project on the road

Annie Leibovitz, right, and Gloria Steinem at Leibovitz's studio in New York, Oct. 3, 2016. (Philip Montgomery/The New York Times)

Last year, renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz began work updating her 1999 project Women — a book collaboration with her partner of 15 years, Susan Sontag, who died in 2004. Her muse and mentor to move the project into its new phase was 82-year-old political activist Gloria Steinem, who was photographed by Leibovitz at her desk.

That picture was the first of dozens of new images of women leaders, from all walks of life, that 67-year-old Leibovitz began to add to the original project, that she now regards as resonant but “never done.” Women: New Portraits will bring Leibovitz’s vision to a new generation, but also via a format beyond the book — since January, she and Steinem have taken the work on a 10-city international tour, exposing the work through the use of pop-up sites, where the audience joins the two women in talking circles led by Steinem. Fresh portraits are added in each city, and issues they have addressed range from sexual violence perpetrated against women in Mexico City to life in the tech world of San Francisco. “This kind of thing, where you get to see people looking, it makes me want to do more of it and be more engaged like that,” Leibovitz told The New York Times.

The new project also advances the idea Sontag wrote about in the earlier book, of capturing women’s character rather than their physical beauty. “The imagery of women has to catch up with the imagery of men,” Leibovitz said. “I don’t know if I ever succeeded for Susan on some level, which is why it is quite beautiful to go back into this project.”

After the exhibition is seen in Manhattan, at the gymnasium of a former women’s prison that closed after sustaining damage from Hurricane Sandy, the structure will be transformed into the Women’s Building — a future hub for women’s groups and service, slated to open in 2020. Steinem told the Times she had been “tap-dancing hard” to help get the plans for the women’s center through bureaucratic approvals and suggested the space to Leibovitz.

“It’s a harmonic convergence,” Steinem said of the synchronicity between the empowering message of the exhibition and the repurposing of the building.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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