Annie Leibovitz has photographed practically every celebrity, rock star and politician over the past four decades, but when she was honored by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, she showed a photograph of Niagara Falls.
Leibovitz received the 7th MOCA Award to Distinguished Women in the Arts Tuesday at a private luncheon at the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills. She showed the Niagara Falls image and told a story about a recent trip there with her children featured in her new book, "Pilgrimage."
She said the MOCA honor "means a lot to me."
"This award has been given to a great group of women, very distinguished company," she said, noting that artist Barbara Kruger was among the guests Tuesday. "And here I am in California. This is where I learned to be a photographer."
Leibovitz, 62, started shooting for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 while still a student at the San Francisco Art Institute. She went on to work for Vanity Fair and Vogue and has released several books of her photographs. Her "Pilgrimage" collection is currently on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Some of her most iconic images include a naked John Lennon curled around clothed Yoko Ono and Demi Moore nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair.
Ever humble, Leibovitz snapped photos, Facebook-style, with fans' pocket cameras before accepting her award from her friend Maria Shriver.
In one of her rare public appearances since filing for divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger last summer, Shriver described Leibovitz as a living legend and "a woman of brilliance."
"I'm here out of friendship for her, but really out of respect for the way she has lived her extraordinary life," Shriver said. "You have chosen (to recognize) a woman who has had an incredible effect not just on the arts, not just on fashion, not just on photography, not just on women, but on all of us."
Actresses Marisa Tomei, Rosanna Arquette and Daphne Zuniga were among the celebrities at the luncheon that benefited MOCA's educational programs. A group of young students participating in Contemporary Art Start also attended the event.