COMMENCEMENT

Corcoran's Parting Shot

"The artistic process is still about seeing. . . . As you go out in the world, keep in mind the possibilities," photographer Annie Leibovitz tells Corcoran graduates.
"The artistic process is still about seeing. . . . As you go out in the world, keep in mind the possibilities," photographer Annie Leibovitz tells Corcoran graduates. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Long before they began studying photography at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Holly Williams and Aimee Anthony knew about Annie Leibovitz.

Williams, as a youngster, leafed through a book of Leibovitz photographs that was in her home. Leibovitz portraits inspired Anthony when she began learning to use a camera.

And when Genevieve Hilton Cocco, the student speaker for the school's commencement, approached the lectern, she turned to the honorary-degree recipient at her side and said, "Hi, Annie Leibovitz!" Then, in a giggling mock aside to the audience: "She totally just said 'Hi' to me!"

Yesterday, the 85 Corcoran graduates assembled in black gowns and caps (some decorated with splatter paint or dangling anime) at DAR Constitution Hall to hear from an artist who is as famous as the celebrities she photographs.

It's not an easy thing, graduating from art school and launching into the real world; Williams and Anthony are both worried about finding jobs. The experience of Leibovitz, who began working for Rolling Stone and shot her way straight to success, is rare.

Leibovitz told the graduates of Corcoran to keep their eyes open.

"The artistic process is still about seeing. Things don't stop unfolding in front of you. As you go out in the world, keep in mind the possibilities," she said.

The photography majors, in particular, leave school with a new sense of perspective.

"Everything starts to look different through the lens," Anthony said.

The best thing about her education, she said, was the exposure -- to new ideas, new techniques, new artists.

The work of Leibovitz, Richard Avedon and other commercial photographers is usually the first thing photography students see, Anthony said, the first thing that gets them excited about the field. At school, Anthony learned about edgier, lesser-known artists, and she experimented with color and interactive pieces .

For her final project, Anthony stacked hundreds of photographs and videotaped gallery visitors peeling them off, one by one, to take home. The first photo to go was the eye in a huge portrait, and the images kept changing as photos were removed. A man pulled away the final photo after hesitating briefly.


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