CANNES, France—Annie Leibovitz spoke about her Disney ads here at the Cannes Lions festival on Tuesday morning. In the afternoon, she stopped by the press room inside the Palais des Festivals and spoke with reporters about her craft.
She was asked about her famous photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono—the one that she took on Dec. 8, 1980, just hours before Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota building in New York City. Here is how she described it:
"I sometimes think of that photograph as 10 years in the making. I met John Lennon and Yoko Ono in New York in the early part of my career. It was 1980, and he had just finished the album Double Fantasy with Yoko. I had seen the cover, which was both of them kissing. And I thought, Oh my gosh. This was the 1980s—romance was a little dead. And I was so moved by that kiss. There was so much in that simple picture of a kiss. So, for the photo I wanted to take, I imagined them somehow together. And it wasn't a stretch to imagine them with their clothes off, because they did it all the time. But what happened at the last minute was that Yoko didn't want to take her clothes off. So, we went ahead with the picture, and it was this very striking picture of Yoko clothed against a naked John. And of course, John was murdered later that afternoon. It's actually an excellent example of how circumstances change a picture. Suddenly, that photograph has a story. You're looking at it and thinking it's their last kiss, or they're saying goodbye. You can make up all sorts of things about it. I think it's amazing when there's a lot of levels to a photograph."