"So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; He who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, Saying, 'It is ready for the soldering'; Then he fastened it with pegs, That it might not totter." -- Isaiah 41:7 (NKJV)
Pilgrimage is an intensely personal book, reflecting Annie Leibovitz's interests, perspectives, thought, and some serendipity. Unlike her most famous books, this one is quite different. The essay she wrote is at the core of the book, conveying how she arrived where she did, what happened there, and what her reactions were. The images then become an elaboration on the text rather than the total focus of the book.
In making those comments, I don't mean to suggest that Ms. Leibovitz is a great writer of texts. Her writing here is more akin to an edited diary as she jumps from place to place, as the spirit moved her . . . on these trips that no one hired her to do. You'll also get a flavor of what else was going on in her life at the time. It's very revealing . . . and wonderful.
I've been to many of these places, and that made me aware of how personal her vision is in this book. Another person would have commented on different things . . . and taken different photographs. So in this book, you have a reflection of the real Annie Leibovitz, rather than just stylish portrayals probing the inner characters of the talented, the rich, the powerful, and the famous.
Before going further, let me be candid. This book could have been a lot better. The photographs are usually nowhere near the text that describes them. Many images are bisected vertically by the middle of the book, rather than being presented on fold-out pages where the view would be more complete. A lot of the printing of the book seems downright murky. I doubt if the images are that dark in reality.
But for a book all about inspiration, I have to ultimately judge it by saying that I was inspired. It's a very moving book.
Here are just a few of my favorite images:
Emily Dickinson pressed cactus and dogwood Emily Dickinson's bedroom View from the motel window at Niagara Falls Interior image of Niagara Falls Writing table view in Virginia Woolf's house Virginia Woolf's writing desk The river where Virginia Woolf often walked Portraits and decor in Charleston House (4) Sigmund Freud's couch Pigeon skeleton owned by Charles Darwin Specimen from the Beagle's voyage Lincoln Memorial Washington Monument Devil's Den at Gettysburg First draft of the Gettysburg Address Glass negatives of a Lincoln portrait Georgia O'Keeffe's Black Place, pastels, red hill, and view at Ghost Ranch Elvis's television with a hole shot in it Elvis's Harley-Davidson Jefferson's vegetable garden Lewis and Clark compass Annie Oakley's trunk A heart shot through on a card by Annie Oakley Hair ornament that Sitting Bull gave to Annie Oakley Beth Alcott's doll Tracing of Bronson's and Louisa's hands in his journal May Alcott's drawing Louisa May Alcott's desk Frame of Thoreau's bed Emerson photographs (4) Grass John Muir collected John Muir's notes Yosemite views a la Ansel Adams Old Faithful (2) Spiral jetty (3)