Annie Leibovitz Sued Over Lavazza Ads

NEW YORK Annie Leibovitz cannot catch a break. With attention focused on her $24 million loan that’s due Tuesday, Leibovitz was sued Friday over something unrelated: the Lavazza coffee ad campaign that debuted last year.

Bloomberg news reports that Italian photographer Paolo Pizzetti is suing Leibovitz in a federal court in New York, claiming she used his pictures without his permission as backgrounds in the ad campaign:

“Pizzetti says Leibovitz hired him to shoot photographs of scouting locations for an ad campaign for Lavazza, the Italian coffee company, in April 2008. He said he photographed the Trevi Fountain in Rome and Plaza San Marco in Venice and images of other sites for her and sent her the images digitally.”

Pizzetti claims the background images in the ads perfectly match the scouting images he shot. He is seeking $150,000 per infringement, a court order demanding Leibovitz stop using the images and unspecified damages, according to Bloomberg. Leibovitz has not responded to the lawsuit. The BBC and The New York Post also have stories about the suit.

PDN’s PhotoServe wrote about Leibovitz’s Lavazza campaign in October 2008:
“[Milan ad agency Armando Testa] worked out comps for each shot, but Leibovitz was given the freedom to interpret them as she wished. She was given the green light to shoot the models in the US, when it became clear that time and budgetary constraints would not allow her to work on location. Instead she shot the locations in Italy over the course of three weeks, then returned to New York to shoot the models in-studio. The portraits and backgrounds were then matched in post-production. It was far from the original plan but, says Lavazza, Leibovitz’s meticulous planning ensured it ran smoothly…. The New York shoot lasted just six days but Leibovitz and her studio crew then worked on the images in post-production for one and a half months.”

Pizzetti said in the lawsuit he doesn’t think Leibovitz traveled to Italy for the campaign at all, according to the Bloomberg story.

The campaign was panned by other photographers. Mike Johnston on The Online Photographer called one of Leibovitz’s Lavazzo pictures, “The worst photograph ever made.”

Others were just puzzled by the whole setup. In a post about the campaign on PDNPulse last December, one astute commenter asked: “I’m confused. If she didn’t go to Italy for the shoot, who shot the background photos and why don’t they share the credits?”

Nielsen Business Media