Vanity Fair, July 2015. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. This cover was successful for a number of reasons: a well known subject; a major surprise; and a cresting cultural shift. We wanted to keep it completely under wraps – the images, the story, even the fact that we had the story – until the cover was released, which was quite a feat in this day and age. The whole shoot, and the preparation of the piece, were on complete lockdown with full security. The result was this iconic image by Annie Leibovitz at a point in time when the issue of transgender rights was really about to explode. —Graydon Carter, Editor of Vanity Fair Caitlyn had hardly gone out in the weeks leading up to our session. Her home is cut off and isolated, set back high on a hill in Malibu. It wasn't quite clear what to expect, but the setting helped create the story. The shoot was a cross between journalism and performance art. While there was a portable studio set up in the garage for cover tries, the rest of the house was the landscape for the photographs. Her bedroom, her bathroom, her living room, and of course the large picture windows looking out to the sea. We were not inventing a new person. Bruce was still there—Caitlyn was emerging. Not really surprising (working with a great Olympic athlete), Caitlyn's confidence and determination grew with each photograph. —Annie Leibovitz, PhotographerVanity Fair
Vanity Fair, July 2015. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. This cover was successful for a number of reasons: a well know

Vanity Fair
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TIME Picks the Top Magazine Covers of 2015

Dec 08, 2015

2015 proved that the magazine Cover is more relevant than ever – breaking news, igniting conversations and moving the needle.

Our selection of the top 10 covers of 2015 displays an exquisite use of photography. To arrive at this Top 10, we looked at a range of categories and stories – from news, to celebrity, fashion and sports. We interviewed the architects behind these covers, including photographers, photo and creative directors as well as top editors, for their insight on how they were conceived and executed.

Of the most notable and enterprising are Vanity Fair’s reveal of Caitlyn Jenner, who was photographed by Annie Leibovitz, and New York Magazine’s brilliantly conceived and executed Cosby’s Women, photographed by Amanda Demme. In the mix is also Harper’s Bazaar’s dynamic portrait of Rihanna in a shark’s mouth by Norman Jean Roy, Rolling Stone’s stunning portrait of Adele by Theo Wenner, and the New York Times Magazine’s bold cover of Nicki Minaj by Erik Madigan Heck. We particularly loved how Carlos Serrao captured Chantae McMillan flying naked through the air on the cover of ESPN’s annual body issue, and how Pari Dukovic summarized what New York City is all about on the cover of Condé Nast's Traveler.

We also wanted to call attention to the New York Times Magazine’s epic commission of the French artist JR on the topic of immigration in New York City and the California Sunday Magazine’s magical execution by the artist Amy Friend. Both reveal how delightful it can be for a magazine to partner with an artist to create something that transcends photography.

When it come to photojournalism, we chose 27-year-old Devin Allen’s dramatic picture from the Baltimore protests. The picture was first spotted on Instagram by TIME's photo editors before being selected for the magazine's cover. The picture paired with the line America, 1968 2015 make this cover.

Looking through this selection, there's no doubt that a great cover is a collaborative effort. It’s a unique canvas where talented editors, art directors, photo editors, and photographers come together. With this unranked selection, we've witnessed that the cover still holds the power to be iconic and, at the very least, move and delight us.

Kira Pollack is TIME’s Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise.

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