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Annie Leibovitz appears last October at an exhibition of her work at Vienna's Kunsthaus Gallery. ((Lilli Strauss/Associated Press))

American celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz has signed a deal with private equity firm Colony Capital LLC in order to clear her large debt and retain rights to her works.

Leibovitz, 60, known for her images of celebrities that have appeared in magazines such as Vanity Fair and Vogue, had fallen behind on repayment of a $24-million US loan.

She owed the money to New York-based Art Capital Group, which specializes in loans with fine art as collateral. Last July, the company filed a breach of contract lawsuit against her and threatened to seize control of her entire photo collection and her homes in Manhattan and in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

In September, Art Capital agreed to extend the loan.

The Financial Times of London reported on Tuesday that, under the new agreement, Los Angeles-based Colony Capital will become Leibovitz's sole creditor. It will provide a loan to pay off her debt and will work with her on future projects.

She told the Financial Times that the Colony deal would preserve her archive and her artistic freedom.

She will also retain her rights to more than 100,000 photographs and one million negatives taken during her four-decade career.

"We will be working on new projects, and I will have the support and freedom necessary for nurturing my work and preserving my archive," she said.

"We will be partners in managing her assets and her business so that Annie can spend her time and focus in pursuing her passion as only she can do," Thomas Barrack, founder of Colony, told the Financial Times.

Colony is currently considering a travelling exhibition of Leibovitz's work and art books of her photographs.

Leibovitz's financial troubles stem partly from her extensive renovations to properties she has owned over the last 10 years. 

She has earned a reputation for perfectionism and extravagance. She put former movie star and current California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on top of a mountain and closed France's Versailles palace to shoot Kirsten Dunst posing as Marie Antoinette.

She is probably best known for her photograph of a naked John Lennon that was taken the day before the ex-Beatle was killed.