I think the damage done by celebrity photography is much more grave than the mere pollution of magazines, newspapers and other media that favor this form of entertainment. Fetishizing the celebrity class overemphasizes the role meritocracy plays in creating and sustaining wealth and privilege. The traces of genuine humanity, humility and intelligence are almost always leached out of the celebrity photograph, replaced by self-satisfaction and a vacant sense of entitlement. Not all, but most. No surprise then that I’m not a fan of Annie Leibovitz’s work. Her most recent show, “Pilgrimage,” is no exception, even though it doesn’t focus on living celebrities. It begins this way (and can be found in its entirety here):
Annie Leibovitz photographs the 1 percent, the rich, beautiful and famous, conspiring with the apparatus of celebrity and capitalism to make the lives of successful people feel even more glamorous and alluring. The Library of Congress has officially declared her a “Living Legend,” and despite a few financial problems awhile back – a massive home-renovation project in Greenwich Village contributed to the setback – she has joined the same rarefied ranks of privilege that she has so diligently served throughout her career.