Annie Leibovitz Is Going to End Up Losing Her Thumbs

Back in September, Annie Leibovitz "settled" her debilitating debt issues with high-class pawnbroker Art Capital Group. How'd she pull if off? By borrowing $6 million more from them.

The New York Times' Allen Salkin checks into how Leibovitz is holding up three months after her cheery public reconciliation with Art Capital Group, to whom she had mortgaged her photographs and homes in exchange for $24 million. The answer is, not so hot: Now Leibovitz is about $30 million in the hole, and has to make monthly payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars just to keep out of default.

The increase in debt stems from Leibovitz's attempt to regain some semblance of control over her photographic legacy: In addition to securing her photos as collateral, Art Capital had also negotiated the right to serve as exclusive agent for their sale. When the two parties settled Art Capital's lawsuit in September, Leibovitz bought back the right to sell her own photos—with money borrowed from Art Capital. It's a tactic loan sharks know well.

Now, according to Salkin, Leibovitz is trying to lay the groundwork for paying the money back by selling limited edition "Master Sets" of 157 of her most famous photos for $3.5 million a pop, or about $30,000 per print. Three have already been sold at a discounted rate in the neighborhood of $2.5 million, and she hopes to sell 10 all told, which would put her in the black. It's not a new idea: According to Andrew Goldman's August New York story on Leibovitz's troubles, she had planned a similar scheme with an art dealer in 2007 with the prints initially valued at $25,000 each; she suddenly dropped the dealer a year later and went to another firm who planned to offer them at $33,000-per-print. That deal fell through when news of Leibovitz's troubles with Art Capital broke.

She's also considering a bond offering based on the value of her catalog, a la David Bowie's 1998 deal to allow investors to buy a piece of his songwriting royalties. So if you're interested in putting your money behind a deadbeat photographer who's been repeatedly sued by creditors, solves her debt crises by going deeper into debt, and has mortgaged the very collection of photographs you'd be investing in to a ruthless artshark, by all means give her a call.