My Two Cents… (Leibovitz with the Kardashians)

The Kardashians Photographed by: Annie Leibovitz

Ok so I just had to post about this. As you may or may not know, Annie Leibovitz recently shot the images for the Kardashian sister’s new Sears line. I’ll let you process that for a second….

Ok so, if you don’t know who Annie Leibovitz or the Kardashians are, do the Google thing. For those people who do know the story of Leibovitz, you know that she recently had some pretty severe financial trouble. You also know that she is one of, if not THE, most renowned portrait photographer. Chances are, even if you aren’t into photography, you’ve heard her name. By the same respect the Kardashians have built their name through a multitude of avenues including clothing, perfume, modeling and reality tv. Have whatever opinion you want of them, but you have to somewhat respect the empire they have been able to build. No matter how they’ve built it.

But that’s not the point of this post.

Here’s the thing: Leibovitz has shot anyone who is anyone and has worked for the majority of the most prolific magazines in the world. Do a Google image search and I’m sure you’ll see many familiar images. So… of the all the people to photograph, and the companies to photograph for, why the Kardashians for Sears? It’s interesting because the more I have read on the subject the more I’m surprised by the reactions of photographers. I see the words “sell-out” and that she just did it for the money. Or people saying she must be really hard up for cash to do this shoot. Check out Chase Jarvis‘ post about it here.

One thing I do not disagree with is how badly retouched they are. Have a look at arms & fingers and you’ll notice some weird things going on. I was quite surprised at the how poor the retouching is to be honest. Some of the images actually look like bad cut and paste jobs, not to mention the height correction that they manipulated.

But really? A sell-out? How come no one is screaming at Jeremy Cowart for photographing them and proudly having the image on his site? (it’s the 6th image on the main page).  Zack Arias talked about still shooting a wedding occasionally, is he a sell-out? (And NO, I’m not saying Arias & Cowart’s bodies of work are at the same level of Leibovitz). What makes people think that they are too good for a job? Too important for a job? When did the ego become part of the business process?

To be honest, when I first heard about it, I thought it was kind of cool. I thought “wow, it’s cool that she doesn’t put herself above jobs and think that she’s too good for it”. Now I’m sure there was some seriously huge money thrown her way to do it, but I’m sure that if that same amount of money was thrown your way, you wouldn’t be saying no. While yes it is important to stand your ground and be somewhat selective about what you shoot, sometimes it’s good to do things that you may think are beneath you.

This isn’t like a portrait photographer who doesn’t like shooting sports, doing it for the money. It is a portrait photographer shooting a portrait. And in all reality she has become a celebrity photographer a lot of the time. Many photographers are happy to just be doing it for a living. Now it’s to a point where if you shoot something for a client, that is a step back from other work you usually do, you’re a sell-out?

You may not like the Kardashians, you may not like Sears, but I just don’t really see the issue with this whole thing. When I heard about it, I thought it kind of made sense. I actually saw a tweet about it a while ago and thought it was pretty standard. Leibovitz shoots celebs all the time for major magazines, and advertising. Like it or not the Kardashians are huge celebrities (the 3 of them combined have over 17.5million followers on Twitter)

I don’t know, I’m not convinced on the sell-out tag.

I would love to hear other opinions about this.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “My Two Cents… (Leibovitz with the Kardashians)

  1. sellout? Didn’t that happen long ago…to all of us. The only thing that amuses me is that given the images we’ve seen from Annie over the years, these seem Sears quality. Like someone paid less to get less.

  2. You are right, Denis, this is not a sellout! It does, however, speak of a certain unenviable situation for Annie. Someone with Annie’s portfolio probably plans her shoots long in advance. Like many photogs, she probably thinks “OK, I want to do X-many shoots this month”. She then gets “Y” offers. For Annie, Y was probably much larger than X, in the not so distant past. She had the choice of which shoots she wanted. Shoots like Sears may not have made the cut. Not that she was too good for them, she just had other offers she preferred. That she is shooting Sears makes me think that today, X is larger than Y. is this a sellout? No! She is a working photog who landed a bigger contract then I will ever get. It does suggest, however, that she needs the work and may not have so many offers on the table at any given time.
    On a different note, one can only hope she is upset with the retouched images as well.

  3. Hi, interesting post. I have been pondering this issue,so thanks for posting. I will visit your blog again

  4. Love your post – great thoughts. What does “selling out” really mean though? Shooting something/someone you wouldn’t if you had enough money in your bank account to avoid the shoot?

    Whether Annie “sold out” or not for the money can only be answered by Annie in my opinion. I am of the personal belief that there are going to be times I am shooting for the money to help pay my bills and then there are times when I’ll be shooting more exciting subjects/ people/things/places – elements I gravitate more towards. I am ultimately grateful to ALL my clients that I can do what I love and make a living. That is not working to me – it’s a luxury and privilege to do what you love. And don’t all true photographers inherently love clicking that shutter when taking a photograph of just about anything anyways?

    • Great comment.”And don’t all true photographers inherently love clicking that shutter when taking a photograph of just about anything anyways?” Absolutely!

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