The recent Miley Cyrus photos aren’t the latest images taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz to stir up controversy. In fact, she’s been taking legendary photos of celebrities for four decades!
Her iconic images of Pete Townshend, Meryl Streep, Susan Sontag, Lily Tomlin, The Rolling Stones and many others aren’t even on our list below. There are simply too many to list and the art certainly can’t be easily quantified.
But here is our list of ten of Leibovitz’s most outrageous, controversial, iconic and infamous shots – in other words, some of our favorites!
1. Yoko Ono & John Lennon (1980) – Taken for the cover of Rolling Stone on the morning of December 8, 1980, it was one of the last images of Lennon before he was assassinated later that afternoon.
2. Demi Moore (1991) — Appearing nude & pregnant with daughter Scout on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, this image of Demi was criticized by some and loved by others. Some called it sexist, and others called it revolutionary – but everyone had an opinion!
3. Queen Elizabeth (2007) – In May 2007, Leibovitz was criticized for asking Queen Elizabeth II to take off her crown during a shoot. Critics were divided on the results (meant to commemorate QEII’s trip to the U.S. that spring); some called it a postmodern take on Helen Mirren’s interpretation of the monarch in the 2006 film, “The Queen,” while others felt the results were appropriately regal & elegant.
4. Gisele Bundchen & LeBron James (2008) – Just earlier this month, the NBA star and the Brazilian supermodel appeared to reinterpret King Kong and Faye Wray, in a shot which many critics called racist.
5. Bruce Springsteen (1984) – For his “Born In The U.S.A.” album cover, Leibovitz went all-American – with a picture of the Boss’s behind – in red, white & blue!
6. Leonardo DiCaprio & Knut the polar bear (2007) – After Al Gore won his Oscar for “An Inconvient Truth,” environmental awareness was in again! For this Vanity Fair cover, she shot Hollywood earth crusader DiCaprio with an adorable baby polar bear named Knut, who had recently been rescued and raised by a German zookeeper. As of 2008, the zoo was facing the challenge of how to get Knut to reacclimatize to becoming an adult bear, following the celebrity status that resulted from these photos.
7. Whoopi Goldberg (1984) – Before “The View,” when an up-and-coming young stand-up comic named Whoopi was just becoming famous, Leibovitz shot her from above in a bathtub full of milk, her dark skin poignantly contrasting to the white around her.
8. Tom Ford, Scarlett Johansson & Keira Knightley (2006) – For Vanity Fair’s 2006 Hollywood issue, Leibovitz wanted to shoot three of Hollywood’s most budding ingénue starlets naked together. When Rachel McAdams reportedly backed out at the last minute, famed gay fashion designer Tom Ford stepped in her place – the addition of a man into the shot lent a sexually-charged feeling to the image, and took the focus away from the Oscars themselves in that year’s issue.
9. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes & daughter Suri (2006) – When months had passed without the public having seen an image of Tom Cruise’s first biological off-spring, the public began to question whether or not she really existed. Her big debut came on the cover of Vanity Fair… a young Suri tucked beneath the jacket of her doting father, with mom watching closely over.
10. Sting (1985) – Back in her days with Rolling Stone, Leibovitz shot former Police front man Sting, standing in a yoga tree pose in Lucerne Valley, California. His body was naked and caked in mud, matching the ground and horizon below and behind him.