Excerpts and photographs from Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz, Copyright © 2011 A.L. Archive LLC.
A couple of years ago, seeking solace during what she describes as “financial difficulties that were distracting in the extreme,” Annie Leibovitz took time out from her professional assignments to embark on an evolving, open-ended photographic journey that led her from coast to coast and to England and back, exploring places that intrigued her and the vestiges of lives gone by—a project that gradually took shape as a book. From the dauntingly resilient American architecture of geysers, mountains, and waterfalls to the homes of a panoply of historical figures from Emerson to Elvis Presley, Leibovitz sinks her teeth into a sizable chunk of our cultural heritage, taking us ever deeper inside the experience. The view from the window of the greenhouse where Virginia Woolf wrote her novels, Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Monticello, an etching copied onto the walls of the Alcott family home in Massachusetts by May Alcott (the inspiration for Amy in Little Women) scale down our perception of these large personalities to intensely human dimensions and draw us into the intimate texture of their lives. And when Leibovitz focuses her lens even more tightly on objects—the chaise longue, found upended in a closet, that Freud died on; Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress; the worn and broken pastels Georgia O’Keeffe worked with—the results are almost shockingly disarming.