Annie Leibovitz takes a Pilgrimage @ Hamiltons Gallery

Head down the West End and you will find a whole host of galleries attempting to entice you in with high profile art shows in grand spaces that seem to offer limitless light. You will not find this at Hamiltons Gallery however. Located at Carlos Place, the gallery is in an area that is surrounded by other established galleries including the Halcyon Gallery, a branch of the Haunch of Venison and the Timothy Taylor Gallery.

What marks the Hamiltons Gallery out from these other more showier galleries is that if you did not know where it was, you would completely miss it, it is hidden in between pillars with darkened windows. I found that I actually walked straight past it and was unsure, even once I had found the building, if I did in fact have the correct address.

Entering the gallery I found it incredibly dark. When you enter you descend a staircase to get into the main space. The Gallery is large and this surprised me due to the fact that from the outside, the gallery did not look like it would be very big at all.

The show on display was that of legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, the show being titled ‘Pilgrimage’. In this show Leibovitz has not been on a complete pilgrimage as such, she has photographed Niagra Falls, but while she has photographed this sort of landmark she has also ventured into the objects and possessions of the dead. She has photographed in loving detail objects belonging to Abraham Lincoln including the hat and gloves he wore the night he was assassinated, Sigmund Freud’s rug draped couch and the King of Rock n Roll, Elvis Presley’s motorcycle and television.

Producing this body of work was for Leibovitz herself. She had no motive and was not on assignment. This makes the work so much more personal than her commissioned work, it gives an insight in to what appeals to her and I believe, creates a strong connection between viewer and artist. This project is also Leibovitz’s first purely digital project. It also special because she has stepped away from taking portrait photographs of celebrities, in these images she seems to have unlocked something more personal that is hidden away from the public glare.

The project reminded me of a Facebook album, one where a user has been on holiday, visited a few galleries and now wants to show their friends their amazing trip. However, unlike Facebook albums I felt like I made a genuine connection with her photographs. There is a hidden power within them that is highly attractive and alluring. There is something ghostly within the images. Perhaps it is Leibovitz lurking within them, or perhaps it is her subjects. The objects have so much character within that even though they are not being used; there is still something of their owner within them. It almost feels like a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the owner.

It is odd because you realise whilst seeing this show how much of someone’s personality can be conveyed through personal objects. Freud’s couch for example is something we will always associate with the psychologist and I felt the Motorcycle just embodied the spirit of Elvis, both being icons of rebellion. It was as if both were in the images without being physically visible.

This exhibition is great if you are interested in how objects form people’s identities and how people become recognisable by the objects they own. It is also great if you are a fan of Leibovitz because this is a truly personal project for her.

Check this exhibition out in the New Year.

Have a very Merry Christmas Guys!

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage @ Hamiltons – 8th December 2011 – 20th January 2012

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