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Photographing Annie Leibovitz: From a photographer's point of view

Published on Apr 16, 2014 6:19 PM
An Annie Leibovitz (right) original in the form of a selfie made Straits Times photographer Neo Xiaobin's (left) day. Also pictured is ST Life! journalist Akshita Nanda.

Photographers do not like to photograph photographers. Photographers also do not like to be photographed. There's something about making a portrait of a fellow lensman that stresses me out. Probably because I know that they know if I know my stuff. So imagine what I felt when I found out I had to photograph Annie Leibovitz, THE portrait photographer.

Even if you do not know who Annie Leibovitz is, you've probably seen her works before. Her iconic portraits include the pregnant Demi Moore, Queen Elizabeth, Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub of milk, and the now legendary John Lennon and Yoko Ono Rolling Stone cover in 1980.

ST Life! journalist Akshita Nanda and I had 20 minutes for the interview and photo shoot, so the plan was to shoot during the interview and hopefully spend five minutes for the shoot.

I walked into the ArtScience Museum gallery and saw a fellow photographer friend setting up a mini studio with a black backdrop and lights. He came over and asked, "Freaking out or not?" I wasn't. Not until I found out his original lighting set-up was rejected and he himself was freaking out a little.

Newspaper photographers rarely bring around big fancy lights because we run from assignment to assignment. I had my trusty off-camera flash and that's it. It's good enough for my daily assignments but for this particular shoot, I started to feel rather inadequate as I looked around for a suitable spot for a portrait.

She ended her scheduled interview with the BBC and I managed to sneak a few candid shots of her at the mini studio being photographed by my friend. She asked for her camera and took pictures of the three photographers photographing her, saying that it will make a good series. It's quite a surreal thought - being photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

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