To See Again. Annie Leibovitz's Pilgrimage in the Dark

 I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?
Annie Leibowitz

1 Monk's House. Virginia Woolf's desk with scratches and stains, detail
2, 3, 4, 5 Charleston House, details
6, 7 The River Ouse in which Virginia Woolf drowned herself
8 A tree at Monk's house
9 Monk's House. Virginia Woolf's desk through the window,Photographies © Annie Leibowitz

Annie Leibovitz began chasing the ghosts after the death of her long-term lover Susan Sontag. After grief, mourning and bankruptcy she decided  to  make of Pilgrimage "an excercise in renewal." Taking pictures "in an abandoned way" with a digital camera provided a way of going forward in portraits.

"I discovered that with the digital camera I didn't need much light. It seemed like I could see in the corners. There was none of the colors and contrast distorsion that you get with film when you push it. The camera was rendering things almost the way I was seeing them. " 

Annie Leibowitz, Pilgrimage

“I have a bit of a feeling that I’ve had it with people. But you don’t ever get away from people, really. And these are pictures of people to me. It’s all we have left to represent them. I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?”

Annie Leibowitz,  interview in The New York Times

"She, who believed in no immortality, could not help feeling that her soul would come and go forever with the reds on the panels and the greens on the sofa. For the room — she had strolled into the Ambassador’s bedroom — shone like a shell that has lain at the bottom of the sea for centuries and has been crusted over and painted a million tints by the water; it was rose and yellow, green and sand-coloured. It was frail as a shell, as iridescent and as empty. No Ambassador would ever sleep there again. "

"Elle, qui ne croyait pas à l'immortalité, ne pouvait s'empêcher de penser que son âme ne cesserait d'aller et venir  à tout jamais, avec les rouges des boiseries et les verts du canapé. Car la pièce - sa flânerie l'avait conduite dans la chambre de l'Ambassadeur - avait l'éclat d'un coquillage qui repose au fond de la mer depuis des siècles, caparaçonné  et peint par l'eau d'un million de nuances ; elle était rose et jaune, verte et couleur de sable. Elle était fragile comme un coquillage, aussi vide et irridescente. Plus jamais un ambassadeur ne dormirait là."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando, 1928*

*Sur les questions de traduction du genre grammatical dans Orlando, voir le très bel article de Isabelle Poulin dans la revue de traduction en ligne Palimpsestes.
Il existe deux traductions de Orlando en français, celle de Charles Mauron, 2001 [1929], Orlando, Paris, Stock, La Cosmopolite, la plus ancienne, et celle plus récente de Catherine Pappo-Musard, 1993, Orlando, Paris, le Livre de Poche, Biblio.


  1. Nice post on Annie L!

  2. I am happy you liked it. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. It is so heart-warming to have some feedback.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I am so happy to share it with you and your readers.

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