There’s only one word I would use to describe the whole Annie Leibovitz/Miley Cyrus flap. WEIRD!! Of course it was initially a manufactured controversy on the part of Vanity Fair to sell more copies – that’s why they released the pictures to the media in advance of the issue. Then the story started to feed on itself as television picked it up, mothers were stopped in the street and encouraged to voice their outrage, and the next thing you know people are literally calling out for Miley Cyrus product burning. All because she showed some back!?!
The WEIRDER pictures to me are the ones of Miley and her Dad which are not the way I would want to pose with my nearly 13 year old daughter (who is incidentally a big Miley fan) and who thinks the whole thing is pretty silly. But I guess if you’re a New York City kid and you and your friends religiously watch Gossip Girl, this is pretty tame stuff.
My feeling looking at the picture above is that Billy Ray Cyrus was so engrossed with his moment in the spotlight (not to mention his own hair and make-up) they could have taken Miley out and re-created the complete works of Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe as far as he was concerned.
What about the pictures themselves? As someone who worked with Annie editorially for ten years and represented her as a gallerist for a subsequent ten, I would say she did her job extremely well. The whole point of these kind of pictures is to get attention for the magazine by creating a striking and newsworthy picture - and that’s exactly what she did. Miley Cyrus is 15 years old - a crossroad these now infamous pictures convey well. I’m more put off by the lipstick which looks either a little post-make-out smudged or badly applied, than the sight of a naked 15 year old back.
But who are the Disney and Cyrus family minders kidding about their shock and dismay? The most superficial study of Annie Leibovitz's work reveals four things: one – she likes to get people to take off as many clothes as possible; two - she loves to photograph skin, loves the different textures and colors; three – she loves to show a family bond and loves to show touch; four – she designs her pictures to cause a reaction. Her work is about making contact on every level.
Annie has taken flak for so long she’s used to it, but give her a break! She’s probably done more for the visibility of photography in America over the course of her career than anybody other than Ansel Adams. (About whom more will be posted shortly in the great car picture-taking controversy.)