Annie Leibovitz shot all the covers to capture what looks like a game of telephone among international icons discussing the crisis in Africa. The list of subjects read like a who's who of Africa awareness: Warren Buffett, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Desmond Tutu, Oprah Winfrey, Djimon Hounsou, Chris Rock, Muhammad Ali, Jay-Z, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Iman, to name a few. Each photo shows two subjects conversing with each other — Don Cheadle talking with Barack Obama, Madonna speaking with Maya Angelou, Queen Rania of Jordan speaking to Bono. "These are incredible people of our time who all have a passion for and a connection to Africa," said Leibovitz. "It was important to me to really show the humanity in their faces."
While most people would jump at the chance to be photographed by Leibovitz, celebrities, world leaders and policy makers are busy people. So the photographer flew to locations from Japan to Omaha to South Korea over the course of six weeks to produce the covers (none of which were shot in Africa, though a majority of stories inside the magazine were photographed there). Only the subjects of two covers — President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Alicia Keys and Iman — were photographed together.
The inclusion of Bush and Rice may surprise the magazine's readers. Editor in chief Graydon Carter for years has been blistering in his disdain for the Bush administration, slamming its policies in almost every editor's letter. Carter explains Bush's appearance on the July cover in his editor's letter: "Bono's choice, not mine, as you might imagine; he gives the commander in chief high marks on his Africa policies."