Celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, who has been struggling with a major financial debt, will be honoured by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum with its annual Women of Distinction award.


Annie Leibovitz, pictured in Washington, D.C., in January, was in danger of losing the copyrights to her vast body of work because of a $24-million US loan. ((Charles Dharapak/Associated Press))

The 60-year-old photographer, whose pictures regularly grace the covers and pages of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines, almost lost her life's work in a lawsuit launched by a lending company.

The Art Capital Group was demanding repayment of a $24-million US loan against which Leibovitz had put up the rights of all her intellectual property, as well as her homes in New York state.

On Sept. 1, her lawyers won her a reprieve, which required Leibovitz to grant the financial company the right to act as her agent in selling her images and homes.

Leibovitz has never publicly commented on the matter, but in a statement Sept. 11 said that "in these challenging times, I am appreciative to Art Capital for all they have done to resolve this matter and for their cooperation."

Officials at the O'Keeffe museum in Sante Fe, N.M., said Leibovitz is being honoured for her provocative works, which include iconic portraits of the famous and the infamous.

Some of her well-known shots include the Rolling Stone cover of a naked John Lennon curled up to his wife, Yoko Ono, who is clad in black, and a Vanity Fair cover of a nude and very pregnant Demi Moore. The Lennon photo was done the day he was shot to death.

More recently, Leibovitz got into hot water for her 2008 shot of a semi-naked Miley Cyrus, 15 at the time, staring alluringly into the camera, clutching a bedsheet.

Leibovitz will be handed the accolade on March 6 at Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center.

Previous honorees include journalist Gail Sheehy, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and feminist author Gloria Steinem.

O'Keeffe, best known for her photographs and paintings of nature and landscapes, died in 1986.

With files from The Associated Press