Annie Leibovitz joins up with Ikea for ‘dream project’ about family life

She’s the photographer to the stars whose portraits have graced the covers of high-end glossies from Vogue to Vanity Fair, so when Annie Leibovitz announced her latest collaboration would be with Ikea, well, there was a lot to unpack.

Approached by the company during the pandemic, Leibovitz described the role as “a dream project for someone like myself”, apparently less to do with her love of affordable homeware (although she will be buying a niece some Ikea plates for a wedding present) and more the theme of the project – family.

Leibovitz travelled to seven countries documenting different ideas of family, with 20-odd pictures the result. The collaboration was showcased with an event at Paris fashion week, displaying Leibovitz’s photographs. The space, which also has a shop and cafe, will be open to the public until 3 March.

Annie Leibovitz Photograph: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

She says it was illuminating finding different definitions of “family” – including commune-like living, three parents looking after their son, and a young couple who had moved in with an older widow. “There was a thought that this was about the home,” says Leibovitz. “It really was about these people’s lives. It was so powerful and emotional to go into these people’s lives.”

Leibovitz is, of course, more usually in the lives of the rich and famous. But she says her approach to shoots doesn’t change to suit the star status of the subject. “I don’t take any sitting any more important or less important,” she says. “It’s almost a little bit of a curse – we do everything with exactly the same intensity.”

Francois Beyers and his family, shot by Leibovitz in Wales Photograph: Annie Leibovitz / IKEA Artist in Residence

The photographer, who started her career in the early 70s taking pictures for Rolling Stone, says she is still fulfilled and excited about what she does, even in her mid-70s. “One of the things that’s not talked about enough is it gets so much more interesting to be older,” she says. “You know what you’re doing.” What is her biggest lesson? “I don’t spend a long time with a subject [any more],” she says. “If you’re not getting it [the picture] right away, you should come back.”

As well as to the portfolio of her photographs, Leibovitz has selected six photography mentees whom she has guided in their own projects about home, with the images displayed here. They range from Praise Hassan in Nigeria, who took pictures of her best friend’s house, to Toma Hurduc in Romania, who documented his partner and their dog. Particularly striking is the work of Elena Kalinichenko, based in Kyiv in Ukraine. Her images show a friend outside the ruins of where her house once was, and a sign to a bomb shelter.

Elena Kalinichenko’s shot of her friend outside the ruins of her home in Ukraine. Photograph: Elena Kalinichenko / IKEA Artist in Residence

Leibovitz is not the first fashion insider to have a connection to Ikea. Virgil Abloh, the influential designer who died in 2021, collaborated with the homewares store on a collection in 2018. The collection included a poster printed like a supersized Ikea receipt, and a mat that read Keep Off in his trademark Helvetica script.

The store’s blue Frakta bag was also the inspiration for a Balenciaga bag in 2017, which cost £1,600. Ikea has been good-natured about these fashion moments. After the outrage around the £1,600 bag, they released an advert for the “real” Frakta, emphasising its $0.99 price tag and that “if it rustles, it’s real”.


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