Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nicole Kidman photographed by Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz is a wonderful portrait photographer who made her name famous through the pictures she took for Rolling Stone Magazine.  John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Pattie Smith, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger are just a few of the celebrities that she has worked with.  Born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1949, Leibovitz originally planned on being a painter until she discovered photography on a trip to Japan her sophomore year at San Francisco Art Institute.  In 1970 she took her first pictures for Rolling Stone and by 1973 she was made chief photographer.  Ever since, she has continued to have a very successful career in photography.    

The image of Leibovitz’s that I have selected is a photo of Nicole Kidman taken in 2003 for Vogue.  The focus of the photograph is not consistently clear.  Due to the stage lighting being used, different areas have dramatically varying focus.  The clearest areas of this picture are around the edge.  While Kidman is the subject of this photograph and its focal point, the light surrounding her creates a foggy, filtered look.  Kidman, herself, is clear but the intense stage lighting give her a glowing, indefinite contour.  The lines in this portion of the picture are not particularly sharp and are more organic rather than geometric looking.  The shapes that Kidman’s body makes are wrapped and curved. Her right arm is relaxed, her legs are crossed, and her body is slightly bent.  However, adding some contrast, Kidman’s left hand on her hip creates an angular line. In addition, Kidman is seen in profile which adds even more of a striking angularity. Also, the clear focus and geometric lines surrounding the picture (such as the stage wings, the door, and the curtain ropes) create a frame for the intensely lit center. 

I feel that this photograph has a lot of depth to it because it appears to be broken up into three different spaces.  The area backstage where Kidman is standing would be the first space and the area that first draws the attention of the eye.  Then in the background there are the stage left and stage right wings, which create a second section.  Finally, behind the wings is the theater, which creates a third space and has depth even within itself due its architecture and balconies. 

Overall, this photograph has a soft and smooth texture.  The light reflects off of the wood floor giving it a sleek sheen; the light reflected off the white gown makes Kidman’s body sparkle and her skirt look as fluffy and light as a cloud.  The lavish theater adds to the glamour of the shot.  Everything about the photo points to the theme of a sophisticated star in the spotlight.

Leibovitz shot Kidman from a low angle on stage left pointing the camera up toward her.  This shows off Kidman’s profile and long, slender body.  It also allowed Leibovitz to capture more of the theater in the top of the frame. While this photo is not perfectly symmetrical, it is well balanced within its frame.  The focal point and areas that are brightest are centered and the stage wings are equally lit.  In addition, the contrasting lighting is a prominent part of this photograph.  The contrast between the harsh stage lights and the regular, clear back stage lighting allows what is happening in center of photo to truly stand out and be unique.  The light also provides contrast on Kidman’s figure between the backlight that gives her a glowing silhouette and the lighting on the front of her body that allows her to still appear clear and not just a shadow.

The spatial perspective in this picture is also very intriguing.  A theater is well known to be constructed to have the stage appear to be the focal point and at the very front of everything else.  This photo makes the backstage appear to be the most prominent area and the entire theater (stage, seats, curtains, and all) becomes the backdrop.  Photographing from this perspective allows the audience to see the traditional stage in a new light and from an angle that many people never get to experience. 

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