The Photographer: Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz is usually a master of images, but this year even she couldn’t get a handle on her own picture. For years, the most famous living photographer was a private genius, the woman behind enduring photos of figures like Demi Moore and John Lennon, but never much for basking in public view. Leibovitz’s artistic credibility and personal stability were buoyed by her longtime relationship with writer Susan Sontag, but when Sontag died in 2004, everything seemed to fall apart.

Leibovitz’s finances were deteriorating, despite commercial contracts and a seven-figure salary at Vanity Fair. Within months of Sontag’s death, Leibovitz’s father died and her twins were born (she has three children). By summer 2009 the situation was dire—a lending group sued Leibovitz for $24 million and the artist was in danger of losing the rights to her pictures, which she had put up as collateral. It’s widely speculated that the main source of her money woes were hefty estate taxes that Leibovitz was saddled with after Sontag’s death.

But Leibovitz was always good at rebounding, and she didn’t let this year pass without turning things around. On September 11 the equity group withdrew its lawsuit and extended the terms of her loan. The photographer wasted no time booking work to pay off her debts—she was recently seen trailing President Obama at the White House, snapping away.

Tags: People