Leibovitz Defends Provocative Miley Cyrus Photos

Photographer calls bare-back picture of Cyrus a "simple, classic portrait."


April 28, 2008— -- Annie Leibovitz, the photographer who shot provocative photos of Miley Cyrus for the June issue of Vanity Fair, is defending her depiction of the 15-year-old star.

"I'm sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted," she said in a statement released by Vanity Fair. "Miley and I looked at fashion photographs together and we discussed the picture in that context before we shot it. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful."

Sunday, Cyrus said she's "embarrassed" by the photos and apologized to her fans.

"I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed," she said in a statement. "I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."

Cyrus, the daughter of country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, is the singing and acting sensation known to her legions of teenage fans from the Disney Channel series "Hannah Montana."

In one of the photos, Cyrus is shown from the side, with most of her back bare, clutching what appears to be a satin sheet loosely around herself. In another, she's draped over the lap of her dad, baring her midriff.

While Cyrus said she's embarrassed by the photos in her Sunday statement, in her interview with the magazine that accompanies the spread, she called the back-baring shot "really artsy" but not "in a skanky way" and said "You can't say no to Annie."

The Disney Channel, after learning of the Vanity Fair photo spread and article also issued a statement critical of the magazine.

"Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines," the statement said.

Vanity Fair representative Beth Kseniak defended the magazine's use of the photos.

"Miley's parents and/or minders were on the set all day," she said in a statement. "Since the photo was taken digitally, they saw it on the shoot and everyone thought it was a beautiful and natural portrait of Miley. In fact, when Bruce Handy interviewed Miley, he asked her about the photo and she was very cheerful about it and thought it was perfectly fine."

Cyrus also apologized Sunday for a series of personal photos that circulated on the Internet last week in which she bared her midriff and her bra.

"The pictures of me on the Internet were silly, inappropriate shots. I appreciate all the support of my fans, and hope they understand that along the way I am going to make mistakes and I am not perfect," she said in a statement to People.

Cyrus is known for her good-girl image. In 2007, she told USA Today that her Christian faith is "the main thing" and what helps her stay grounded in Hollywood. That year, she also told ABC News' "20/20" that she faces the same pressures and temptations as less-than-wholesome stars like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

"People will say, 'Well, you're only 14. You're not getting the same pressures as them,'" she said. "It's like ... 'Yes, I am.' It's because, you know, this life that I lead is pretty crazy. It's just about, you know, having value and having pride in yourself."

That image has helped propel her to the top of the entertainment industry. She came in No. 17 on Forbes' latest list of the 20 top earning stars under 25-years-old, having banked $3.5 million between June 2006 and June 2007. Earlier this month, she signed a seven-figure book deal with Disney-Hyperion Books to publish her memoirs next spring.

ABC News and the Disney Channel are both owned by the Walt Disney Company.

ABC News' Dean Schabner contributed to this report.

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