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October 24, 2013

Annie Leibovitz’s American Lens

By Melissa Wiley | Photography

Annie Leibovitz’s American Lens
Annie Leibovitz

Photographer Annie Leibovitz, best known for her iconic editorial and commercial work, takes a different route in “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage,” an exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina (through January 5, 2014). On tour since debuting at the Smithsonian last year, the show represents a departure from Leibovitz’s seminal approach. “She usually has to answer to somebody,” says curator Victoria Cooke. “This is a personal journey that she made that is all about her own interests, her own aesthetic.”

That journey took the photographer everywhere from national landmarks to parks to the homes and private collections of Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley in search of an understanding of her American heritage. The 78 photographs (shot between 2009 and 2011) in the show feature landscapes, objects and interiors that tell stories within four galleries loosely related to naturalism, England, the notion of freedom and the American psyche. The exhibit (whose appearance at the Columbia Museum is sponsored by Edens) closes its tour in August of next year at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

One highlight is a photo of a dress worn by Marian Anderson, an early-20th-century African American singer. When a concert hall in Washington, D.C., refused to host her, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt helped to facilitate a groundbreaking, pre–Civil Rights Movement performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Other photographs, including shots of the studio where the memorial sculpture was crafted and objects from Roosevelt’s home, provide context, a “sense of flow through history—and connections through history—that aren’t immediately obvious,” says Cooke. 1515 Main St.; 803-799-2810; columbiamuseum.org.