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

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 on 2011-03-16 #lifestyle #classic #iconic #john-lennon #influential-photographs-series #annie-leibovitz #yoko-ono


  1. disasterarea
    disasterarea ·

    Great article

  2. realisticdreamer
    realisticdreamer ·


  3. susielomovitz
    susielomovitz ·

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

  4. superlighter
    superlighter ·


  5. mikahsupageek
    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 !!!

  6. webo29
    webo29 ·,_Roselle,_New_Jersey,… - identical twins by Diane Arbus

  7. webo29
    webo29 · - dorothea lange migrant mother.

  8. iaki
    iaki ·

    I love this photograph. I love Lennon!

  9. tonysykes
    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

  10. ziordiko
    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.…#

  11. lola_moon
    lola_moon ·

    i ♥ John Lennon...beautiful photo!

  12. sandielopez
    sandielopez ·

    oh Lennon ♥♥♥♥

  13. blurry
    blurry ·

    The work of Sebastião Salgado:

  14. jojo8785
    jojo8785 ·

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

  15. sarasvati
    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.

  16. marshrutniy
    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

  17. marshrutniy
    marshrutniy ·

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

  18. basterda
    basterda ·

    @marshrutniy Thank you! You might be interested with this article featuring Robert Capa:… :)

  19. gasord
    gasord ·

    I tried to "copy" that cover of RS for a couple friends of mine (it was their wish...)!/profile.php?id=1566506555

  20. guinastrapazi
    guinastrapazi ·

    ♥ wow

  21. hervinsyah
    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 =)

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