I went back to the Annie Lebowitz Exhibition last night, which has been on in Singapore since April. I went a couple of months ago, but didn’t have enough time to see it all, so I had to finish it. Last night was also the finale and we made it within four minutes of last ticket sales. Phew!
Another reason I wanted to go back is I really wanted Steve to see it. I wanted to know how it made him feel. He has never been to a photographic exhibition – it’s just never been on his radar – so making sure he knew why I found it so powerful was important to me. And then we had our great friend Lee Ann McKee in town. Lee Ann is living in Bali and enjoying her escape to civilization again, so a bit of art and culture was a balm for her soul.
Personally I think this exhibition is amazing! I’m not sure where it’s going next, but if you have an opportunity to go, please do.
As a general reaction, I never expected it to be so personal. Right from word go, Annie shares her famous photographs and then smaller life and family photos are mixed with that.
The pictures of her family are amazing – especially her parents. I spent a lot of time looking at them, wondering what they did as parents to raise the person who has become the world’s most famous photographer. Her Mum in particular caught my attention. In every photo she is moving, dancing, smiling, leaping, or swimming, and her life seems to be about action and joy.
As you go through the exhibition, her parents get older, until you see some of the final moments of her family together just before her father dies. This includes some harrowing images of him just as he passed. It’s incredibly moving and powerful watching the aging process of her parents, and it provides the most amazing context to life – a message to live with joy and freedom of spirit, because there’s only one certainty at the end.
Susan Sontag’s life journey is also captured until she dies. The way Annie both photograph’s Susan and speaks of her love of life, curiosity about the world, and the joy she gets from experiencing everything, is incredibly moving. It seems this relationship is one of the great love stories of our time, and how they both inspired and energized each other comes through all the way through the exhibition.
The famous photos are a privilege to see. You look into the eyes of icons and see a piece of their soul that day. But equally, the less famous people are magical too. Then there is a series of gut-wrenching war photos from Bosnia and Rwanda – and I must say, what Annie chose to capture during those horrifying moments’ rocks you back and shows you a brutality that continues to exist in our world.
Overall, I found this exhibition inspiring. I don’t know how Annie became the most famous photographer in the world – it’s been a complex journey – but she did, and you understand that a lifetime of focus can get you to the top of your game.
It’s also inspiring as she constantly celebrates her family and community throughout the exhibition. Her family and friends were the center of her world and you feel a great sense of celebration and appreciation towards these people all through her life. As I’ve lived away from my original “home” for nearly 20 years in four other countries, this touched me deeply. It made me long for community around me – the sort of community you get old with.
There were other inspirational elements, but the final aspect that stood out was the beauty you saw in every photo – whether young or old. In the case of older people, you could see every line and crevice in their face, but it was beautiful and a great lesson in loving yourself through the aging process. You knew that the only important thing was the heart inside, but she shows us the packaging is beautiful too.
This exhibition touched me deeply and has really inspired me to be the best I can be – as a human and in my professional journey too. I’m really thankful to Annie for giving me that.
When I asked Steve what he thought, he said: “I wasn’t expecting it to have such an emotional impact on me. I knew the famous pictures and I loved seeing them, but it was the other pictures that really struck me. I wasn’t expecting to be moved at all – but I was, and that was so surprising to me.”
Lee Ann loved it as well.
For me, I’m pretty sure Steve will jump the next time I get all psyched up about an exhibition. Cool.
Anyone else seen it? Did it move you too?
Yours, without the bollocks