MasterClass Review: Annie Leibovitz

Disclaimer: MasterClass has comped me an All Access Pass in order to audit and review the online classes they offer as a number of them relate to the topics covered here on ARTIST-AT-LARGE.

Let’s see, how can I make this review about me? Maybe a little history … Also, a little background on my perspective will give some insight on how I’m going to review this MasterClass.

I went to an obscure little art school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and majored in photography in the mid-1970s. At the time, Annie Leibovitz (whom I’ve never met) was an up and coming photographer. She had started working at Rolling Stone in 1970 and in 1973, she became a full staff member at the magazine. By the time I had entered art school she was touring with the Rolling Stones as their personal concert photographer.

She had my dream job. And she had a seven year head start on me.

Even then I knew that Annie Leibovitz was going to get every photography gig that I would ever want. I sat down in the photography critique room one day towards the end of my art school days and wondered why I was even bothering.

To be honest, I LOVE HER WORK. Really love it. Who doesn’t?

Annie, and I, studied photography at a time when it was all about composition, geometry, emotion, intuition, and the light/dark experience. This is what her MasterClass is about.

Although I do remember the Nikon/Canon wars and people using their cameras as status symbols. But that was more of a brand issue rather than a technical issue.

This master class is about three hours in length in total, with about fifteen videos included in the series. It flows more like a documentary rather than a class, but for those technically minded of you, there is a lot of tech included in the class, just not the kind you are looking for – but maybe the kind of tech you need. Just listen to what she says about natural light, about images that are sharp and a viewer’s expectations. The differences between shooting and processing film and digital. I particularly related to the lesson called “Working With Light”. I found the chapters on shooting the Angels in America cast and the one on shooting and printing the portrait of Alice Waters to be totally engaging, to actually see how she works.

I’ve read a few reviews of the class, and it seems that all of the comments that are on the negative side are about the tech. Bah. My observation about that is that you are missing the point – and a few details, Maybe it’s because my philosophy of photography is very similar to hers. It’s all about the composition. But she does go into the tech, the type of camera she uses and how she works with light. She’s very intuitive about her work, which means that she is in the moment and only plans so much and no more, and that is something you can open up in another photographer, but not something that can be taught or tested or forced. She is an observer. A director. Every situation is a little different. She talks about that in a realistic and grounded way.

Each lesson has an assignment at the end of it – ideas and concepts to contemplate. I sort of expected her to be an assignment task master, but her assignments are really contemplative.

Is The Class Worth The Time And Money:

I personally think that this class is worth it just for the inspiration factor as a photographer. I also think it’s really worth it if you have an Annual Membership.

Besides the fifteen videos in the class, there is a “Hub” community where you can get feedback on your work and create conversation with other class students as well as access to a “Live” Q&A video that was recorded in December 2019 where she answers questions from students phoning in on skype. A few of those questions are more technical in nature than what one finds in the course videos.

If you’ve taken the class, I’d love to hear your comments below!

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Here is a link to sign up for a MasterClass Annual Membership for only $180 USD. A purchase through that link will support ARTIST-AT-LARGE.

Kimberly Kradel

Artist, Writer, Photographer. Publisher of ARTIST-AT-LARGE.

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