“We were looking hard in 1999 for women CEOs and women who ran companies,” Annie Leibovitz told The New York Times last month, in a discussion centered on her ongoing “Women” series. She began the portrait project in the late ‘90s, working alongside her partner Susan Sontag, photographing women in leadership positions across politics, sports, business and arts.
This year, the project has come back to life, with new subjects reflective of a different time. “Now, it seems that there really are many more women in high positions,” the photographer added. “It seemed like issues were more in the forefront.”
“Women: New Portraits,” commissioned by UBS, is currently on view in New York City, bringing together Leibovitz’s images from 1999 with photos from 2016, and several in between. Her subjects include Hillary Clinton, Misty Copeland, the Williams sisters, Gloria Steinem, Andréa Medina Rosas, Malala Yousafzai, Shonda Rhimes, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Warren, Denise Manong, Adele, Sheryl Sandberg and Caitlyn Jenner, among many others.
“You can’t look at all those images without seeing the true human diversity of women, not characterized by whatever feminine idea or roles of who we’re supposed to be,” Steinem, who helped configure the list of women photographed, added to the NYT.
It is certainly fitting that one of the world’s most recognizable photographers ― a historic woman herself ― is taking the time to honor the women breaking down barriers in their respective fields. It’s also no accident that, in New York, the images are currently on display in a former women’s prison, the Bayview Correctional Facility in Chelsea, which will soon become The Women’s Building, a space dedicated to addressing the rights of girls and women.
New York is the ninth city to pay temporary home to Leibovitz’s photos. So far, the series has toured through Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico City, London, San Francisco, Milan and Frankfurt, with Zurich on the horizon as the last stop. A series of public talks, dubbed “Women for Women,” are also taking place in conjunction with the tour, focused on topics of global and local relevance to women’s rights. Plus, on social media, the hashtag #ShareYourHero is encouraging people to share their own images of women who inspire them on a daily basis.
Catch a preview of “Women” here, on view until December 11, 2016, at 550 West 20th Street in New York City. The exhibitions is free to enter and no ticket is required.