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Influential Photographs: John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1980 by Annie Leibovitz

To be photographed as husband and wife with such profundity, like this bold and infamous portrait of John and Yoko, certainly immortalizes relationships. It is strong and stunning – like their adoration for each other.

image from jimlind.com

On December 1980, Annie Leibovitz was assigned to photograph John Lennon and Yoko Ono. She was Rolling Stone’s chief photographer at the time. Initially, Annie attempted to photograph just John alone but he insisted that Yoko be on the cover, too. Annie, inspired by the album cover of Double Fantasy, tried to recreate something like it. For the lovers’ portrait, she imagined that the two would pose together nude.

Yoko was reluctant to take her clothes off. She claimed that she could take her top off but not her pants. Disappointed, Annie asked her to just leave everything on. John, disrobed, curled up beside and wrapped himself around a fully clothed Yoko. Annie used an instant camera to capture the moment. Instantly, the three knew right away that it was a profound image. John and Yoko exclaimed to Annie, “You’ve captured our relationship exactly.”

Sadly, after several hours, John was assassinated in front of his apartment. The photograph ran on the January 1981 cover of Rolling Stone magazine to commemorate the former Beatle. In 2005, it was voted by the American Society of Magazine Editors as the best magazine cover of the last 40 years.

Which other photographs do you think are influential? Post a hyperlink to the image in the comments – if you know it, please include the photographer’s name and the year the photo was taken.

Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.

written by basterda


  1. disasterarea


    Great article

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  2. realisticdreamer



    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  3. susielomovitz


    When I see this photo I feel like he loved her more than she loved him... it's just my impression...

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  4. superlighter



    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  5. mikahsupageek


    great article, great photographer, and for those who haven't seen "Life through a lens" documentary on Annie Leibovitz, I highly recommend you download it ASAP !!!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  6. webo29


    http://en.wikipedia.(…)ersey,_1967 - identical twins by Diane Arbus

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  7. webo29


    http://en.wikipedia.(…)other02.jpg - dorothea lange migrant mother.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  8. iaki


    I love this photograph. I love Lennon!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  9. tonysykes


    One of my favorite photographs, one of my favorite photographers, one of my favorite musical artists. I think this photograph describes John better than any words ever could <3

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  10. ziordiko


    personally i love cobain's pic in rolling stone magazine after his death in 1994 (dont know the photographer though). it shows a kurt with lost sight that probably reflects how lost he was feeling, a plain look that hardly shows anything .. maybe emptiness of the soul. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/photos/kurt-cobain-photos-20001207#
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  11. lola_moon


    i ♥ John Lennon...beautiful photo!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  12. sandielopez


    oh Lennon ♥♥♥♥
    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  13. blurry


    The work of Sebastião Salgado:


    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  14. jojo8785


    Saw a photography exhibition of hers recently in Sydney...just amazing.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  15. sarasvati

    This is an amazing picture, and others in the comments have linked to great pictures, as well. @webo29, the "Migrant Mother" photo is definitely one of those "worth 1000 words" (or more) pictures about an entire period of history. I am also a fan of the Cottingley Fairies.
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  16. marshrutniy


    I really enjoy this Influential-photo-series! Great job! Thank you!
    As to the other influential photoes: I love very much Robert Capa and his Omaha Beach photographs at the D-Day 6-6-1944

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  17. marshrutniy


    and one more impressive photo: “Le Violon d’Ingres” Man Rey, 1924

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  18. basterda


    @marshrutniy Thank you! You might be interested with this article featuring Robert Capa: http://www.lomograph(…)robert-capa :)

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  19. gasord


    I tried to "copy" that cover of RS for a couple friends of mine (it was their wish...)

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  20. guinastrapazi


    ♥ wow

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  21. hervinsyah


    Look like shark kissing remora fish. After John Lennon passed away, Yoko Ono still used her husbands fame who have cheat on her just like she did the same with her first husband, to shows off what she self=proclaimed as an art. Personally I love Annie Leibovitz film shoot, but I love John's personality too when force her to do what he want!!! It's extraordinary when the model direct the avant garde photographer =)

    about 2 years ago · report as spam

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