Annie Leibovitz Goes Big, Very Big

At least when you spend $2500 on Annie Leibovitz’s new retrospective book of portraits (Taschen), you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. The self-titled compendium clocks in at just over two feet in length and a little less than that in width. That’s 476 jumbo-sized pages with six fold-outs and a supplement book of essays (Steve Martin, Graydon Carter, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Paul Roth).

Weighing roughly 65 pounds, it’s so big that it could crush a coffee table should anyone be foolish enough to set it down there. Thus, it comes with its own industrial-strength tripod designed by Marc Newson. In other words, the book is massive, exactly the same size and heft as Helmut Newton’s SUMO, the fittingly titled giant of a monograph published in 2000.

The book took several years to make happen as it draws from four decades of work, starting with Leibovitz’s early reportage for Rolling Stone in the 1970s. But the majority of photos are culled from her famously fussy yet iconic portraits of actors, musicians, artists, and athletes that appeared in Vanity Fair, Vogue, and the like. The book ends with a formal portrait of Queen Elizabeth II taken in Buckingham Palace in 2007, a rare opportunity that saw the Queen become testy with the American’s at times overly ambitious method.

With a price tag in the four digits, naturally you’d expect your choice of cover photos, and that’s exactly what you get. The four options include David Byrne (taken in 1986), Keith Haring (1986), Whoopi Goldberg (1984), and Patti Smith (1978) — each signed and numbered (up to 10,000). Or, for double the price, you get all four books. Now that’s a deal!

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