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Photography is an art that is simple to take up but significantly difficult to become good at. Its popularity has exploded over the last two decades, as the development of digital technology has opened up a plethora of new possibilities, and made photography much more accessible. No wonder then that online courses in photography are so popular.
Annie Leibovitz teaches one of those courses, offering you the chance to learn photography from her at Masterclass. Leibovitz is acknowledged as one of the greatest portrait photographers of all time, with an outstanding career behind her. The 70-year-old photographed John Lennon on the day he was assassinated in 1980. What is in the Annie Leibovitz Masterclass course on photography? Read on to find out.
Annie Leibovitz was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in October, 1949. She moved around frequently as a child, due to her father being a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force. Her mother was a modern dance instructor, and the young Leibovitz grew to share her mother’s passion for art and performance. Leibovitz attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where she trained to be an art teacher. It was there that she would attend her first photography workshop. She subsequently changed her major at the college to photography.
Over the next few years, Leibovitz would develop her skills as a photographer while working in other jobs. Her main inspiration came from the works of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. She spent time on a kibbutz in Israel in 1969. When she returned to the USA in 1970, Leibovitz would begin her career as a staff photographer, working for Rolling Stone magazine.
By 1973, she had been appointed as the magazine’s chief photographer. Leibovitz would retain this job for a decade, and her photographs of various stars would help to define Rolling Stone’s look and style. Leibovitz would photograph many of the world’s biggest rock stars. She worked with The Rolling Stones in 1971 and 72 in San Francisco, and also photographed the band on their Tour of the Americas in 1975.
One of Leibovitz’s iconic photos is the one she took of former Beatle John Lennon on December 8, 1980. Lennon would later be shot and killed that day in New York City, but the picture that Leibovitz took of him and his partner Yoko Ono would feature on the cover of Rolling Stone and become an iconic image of the couple.
Leibovitz would go on to work for Vanity Fair magazine in the 1980s, with her use of colour, lighting and poses helping to redefine the magazine’s look. She won a Clio award in 1987 for her photographs of celebrities for an American Express advertising campaign. In 1991, she would become the first woman and only the second living portraitist to mount an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Also in that year, she was Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
Leibovitz has photographed Queen Elizabeth II, Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus over the last two decades, subjects that highlight the breadth and scale of her work. As a portrait photographer, she has been hugely influential, so what is in the Annie Leibovitz Masterclass course on photography? You can read about that now.
The Annie Leibovitz Masterclass course on photography consists of 15 video lessons of various lengths, totalling three hours four minutes of material. You can access all of the material on your mobile device, of course, which helps with the time commitments required. The time of each video lesson varies quite considerably, which is slightly unusual for a Masterclass course. The longest lesson takes almost 25 minutes, while the shortest, the course’s introduction, is just over three minutes long.
Obviously, with a practical skill such as photography, there is a certain amount of practical work required to perfect the techniques that Leibovitz is teaching you. Before you sign up for the course you should be aware of these time commitments. Photographers are constantly perfecting their art by actually taking pictures, so learning is an ongoing process with this Masterclass course. You should also have some knowledge of photography before you start working on the course, as Leibovitz discusses some fairly tricky concepts at times that might not be familiar to someone who has never done any photography before.
There are 16 video lessons in the Annie Leibovitz Masterclass course on photography. The lessons are of varying lengths. Each is accompanied by a downloadable workbook of course materials. These review the subjects covered in each lesson, as well as giving you assignments to complete so that you can master the skills and concepts being taught.
The course opens in typical style, with Leibovitz giving you an introduction to her life and career. She then moves on, in the second session, to give a comprehensive overview of portrait photography and why she thinks it is so significant. A session on how to create robust concepts for portrait photography sessions follows, before Leibovitz moves on to discuss how to work more effectively with light as a photographer.
Leibovitz is known for work that involves close friends and family, and it is therefore no surprise to see that there is a lesson on photographing people who are close to you. Other sessions on how to work well with your subjects and reflecting on your work perfectly complement this lesson. Other sessions include Leibovitz discussing her influences, as well as case studies on certain subjects, such as Alice Waters, whom Leibovitz has photographed.
There is not that much on the actual practical side of photography, at least when it comes to how to set up cameras, the technology used or how to change the shutter speed of your lens. This is a more esoteric course, in that it primarily deals with the concepts that underpin Leibovitz’s approach to her work. There is only one session from the 16 that comprise the course that deals with this aspect of photography. Anyone looking for a more practical and technical photography course should probably look elsewhere. There is a useful lesson on digital post-production work, though, which is very useful.
Overall, we have to say that this is a solid course offering from Masterclass. While it does not contain as much on the technical and practical aspects of photography as much as we perhaps would have liked, there is still plenty of interesting and useful content on offer. To learn what motivates a great photographer like Leibovitz is always interesting, and her specific insights into the more specialist aspects of portrait photography are very useful indeed. We particularly enjoyed the lesson on post-production work for digital photography.
We suspect that this course will actually be of more interest to people who are interested in Leibovitz and her life and work, rather than for serious students of photography. That does not lessen its value, though. We recommend that anyone with an interest in photography, especially portrait photography, should at least consider signing up for the course. It costs £85, or you can access it as part of the £14.17 a month subscription deal that Masterclass offers.