Annie Leibovitz gets personal with inspiring Russia

MOSCOW Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:29am EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Photographer Annie Leibovitz paid homage to Russia's rich cultural past on Tuesday when she opened a 200-piece exhibit spanning 15 years of her professional and private life.

Pictures of the births of the 62-year-old Leibovitz's three daughters were hung in Moscow's state Pushkin Museum next to her portraits of such famous personalities as Mick Jagger, Demi Moore and others for covers of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair.

"Russia is definitely at a crossroads now. Coming to Moscow, it feels very young and very moving," Leibovitz told reporters as she guided them around her pieces.

Dressed all in black with her blonde hair tousled, Leibovitz said Russian literature and ballet had inspired her work.

"Russia is a great country for art and film and dance. It is where great art is born. I'm thinking of the Ballet Russes and everything that's ever meant something to me," she said.

Called "Annie Leibovitz. A photographer's life. 1990-2005", the collection captures the emotional period when Leibovitz found herself caught between the burgeoning lives of her young daughters and the deaths of her lover Susan Sontag and father.

But Leibovitz said she felt her exploration of deeply personal joy and tragedy spoke to the universal experience.

"I really felt the personal work is everyone's story, it's not just my story," she said.

Leibovitz's naked self-portrait taken when pregnant at age 51 drew surprise and praise from viewers in a country where most women give birth before age 30.

"This photographer should be an example to all Russian women. She has a terrific career but also gave birth at an age when most women here wouldn't do it," Anna Payesova, a scientist at Moscow State University, told Reuters.

Last month Leibovitz presented the exhibit at St Petersburg's 18th century State Hermitage Museum.

The exhibit will be open to the public from October 12 to January 15 2012.

(Reporting By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; editing by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Paul Casciato)