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Leibovitz's New Book on Shelves

NEW YORK -- Annie Leibovitz's life revolves around prints and preschool.

Sure, she's perhaps the most storied celebrity photographer working today. But she's all about her three girls. On one wall in her Greenwich Village office hangs a photo of daughter Sarah, 5, and twins Susan and Samuelle, 16 months. On another is a chart outlining the status of Sarah's myriad kindergarten applications.

Upstairs hang photos of Angelina Jolie, clad in red and posing in a desert, shot for an upcoming issue of Vogue. Jolie, says Leibovitz, "is so cool. We just talked about our kids -- real stuff, stuff that matters." And recently, Leibovitz shot Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes with daughter Suri for the current Vanity Fair.

"Being a mom yourself, you sort of get it," she says. "It's cuckoo, what's going on -- a bounty on the kid's head for a picture. I was so happy to go in and defuse this thing."

Cruise gave her the run of his Telluride, Colo., and Los Angeles homes, but shooting a 3-month-old infant was tricky because "you're on the baby's schedule," the photographer says. "There was one day that went by, we had a tiny window of 15-20 minutes."

When it comes to discussing her brood, Leibovitz, who turns 57 today, lights up. But she has a more difficult time chatting about her book, A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005, in stores this week. The book, says Leibovitz, "is just a look at my life in the last 15 years."

That life is a medley of professional photos and personal snaps. Interspersed with pictures of Leibovitz's girls are very intimate shots of the photographer's "very close friend," writer Susan Sontag, as she battled cancer. And perhaps most stunning are the 2004 photos of a dead Sontag.

"If Susan was alive, she wouldn't want those pictures published," says Leibovitz. "But Susan being dead, she would champion these pictures. She wasn't afraid of any controversy."

Sontag's death informs Leibovitz's life. "I started looking for pictures of Susan for a memorial book. I discovered all these pictures of her," she says. "I knew what she would like and wouldn't like. I felt so lucky I had these pictures," which she says helped her grieve.

So did her girls, who brought her smile muscles back, she says.

"I always wanted children, and I just flipped priorities."

She recalls that after she had given birth, "They wheeled Sarah in, and you just realized, 'It's a person.' You become responsible," says Leibovitz. Her twins were born via surrogate.

The working mom underscored those priorities when she cleared her schedule for Sarah's first day of school. "You have to be there for certain things."

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