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When Benedikt Taschen asked one of the most important portrait photographers working today, Annie Leibovitz, to collect her pictures in a Sumo-sized book, she was intrigued by the challenge.

The project took several years to develop and when it was finally published in 2014, it weighed in at 26kg.

This collection is now available in an accessible format. Leibovitz drew on more than 40 years of work, starting with the photojournalism she did for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s through the conceptual portraits she made for Vanity Fair and Vogue. She selected iconic images – such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono entwined in a last embrace – as well as portraits that had rarely, if ever, been seen before.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, New York City, 8 December 1980

(Annie Leibovitz)

Steve Martin, Beverly Hills, 1981

(Annie Leibovitz)

The book covered political and cultural history, from the Queen and Richard Nixon to Laurie Anderson and Lady Gaga.

“What I had thought of initially as a simple process of imagining what looked good big, what photographs would work in a large format, became something else,” Leibovitz says.

Richard Nixon leaving the White House after his resignation as president in Washington DC, 1974

(Annie Leibovitz)

John Cleese, London, 1990

(Annie Leibovitz)

“The book is very personal, but the narrative is told through popular culture. It’s not arranged chronologically and it’s not a retrospective. It’s more like a roller coaster.”

The Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi), Hollywood, 1979

(Annie Leibovitz)

Ellen DeGeneres, Kauai, Hawaii, 1997

(Annie Leibovitz)

You can purchase ‘Annie Leibovitz’ here