We've started this visual journey along the most famous 100 photographers of all times and we continue to be amazed about the endless meanings of photography. There are photographers who changed the definitions of style and beauty. There are photographers who changed the way people understand wars. There are photographers who militate for human rights and fight for the outsiders of society. There are photographers who reinvent shapes, art, and storytelling. They make us stronger, wiser, and kinder. Every image is a lesson. In no particular order, here are the next 25 of them.
PS: In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of the 100 of the Most Influential Photographers of All Time.
Born in Germany, but known for his images featuring British society, Bill Brandt (1904 - 1983) had a tumultuous youth which included tuberculosis but also knowing Ezra Pound and Man Ray. He started his photographic life early and became soon a photojournalist for British publications like Lilliput, Harper's Bazaar, and Picture Post. From documenting bomb shelters in 1940's London to portraits and nude photography was just a step.
Today, Bill Brandt is considered one of the most important British photographers of the XXth century. He impressed the world with his distorted nudes and landscapes. Not only technique brought him in world's attention. His work has a meaningful social character. It has poetry, dynamic, and a surrealist style. Bill Brandt was an explorer of human body, shape, and contrast.
Ralph Gibson (b. 1939) is an American art photographer known for his nudes and graphic images. His work has a mysterious approach, combining several techniques, surrealist style, and narratives. Fascinated by books, almost all his work is published in photo books, many of them published by himself. Ralph Gibson has a long list of exhibitions and awards. You can see him in documentaries, talking about photography and teaching classes. He is the Chair of NYFA, Department of Contemporary Photography.
Working almost entirely in black and white and with a Leica camera, Ralph Gibson is a star for American photography students. And not because of his vast career, but because of his endless passion and love for images.
Seems that Stephen Shore (b. 1947) is always on the road. Known for the visual record of his endless American road trips, Stephen Shore was also a pioneer of colour photography. He doesn't have fancy subjects. Common life of common people he meets in his journeys is the predominant subject in his work. Still, he gained international fame and exhibits in modern art museums and galleries.
Why are his images so powerful? Maybe because he is truly dedicated to one subject, which means a lot to him. Maybe because his photographic voice and creativity discover something new and amazing even in dull places. He is known as one of the photographers who transformed colour photography in a form of art. Many tried to follow his steps and some of them a famous photographers also, like Andreas Gursky, Martin Parr, and Thomas Struth.
Robert Frank (b. 1924) changed the face of photography with only one photo book. It's called The Americans appeared in 1958 and it is one of the most influential photography book of the XXth century. The Americans is an outsider's view of America. A simple subject perhaps, but a stunning realization. Two years of family road trips, almost 30, 000 photographs, and a book which changed the history.
Robert Frank began his career as a photojournalist. Working for Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Fortune brought him recognition and a trained eye for social life, portraits, and street photography. Later on, he moved to making films and documentaries. He never really abandoned photography as you can see from his visual autobiography published in 1972.
His exploring attitude towards photography brought him controversies, but also followers. Robert Frank transformed the way Americans saw their own culture and society, and like any transformation many criticized him. But that didn't stop him from disobeying rules and seeking for his own voice and perspective.
Considered one of the important figures of photojournalism, Andre Kertesz (1894 - 1985) didn't live to see his success. His methods and angles were not appreciated during his lifetime. Nevertheless, Andre Kertesz' legacy includes contributions to composition and photojournalism.
He used to photograph people and landscapes in his homeland Hungary. Then moved to Paris and became the first photographer with a one-man exhibition. He spend his last years in America, having exhibitions, controversies, awards, arguments, and traveling. He remains in photography history with his impressive photo essays, with an extended use of portraits in reportage, and for his dynamic compositions. He used to say "I just walk around, observing the subject from various angles until the picture elements arrange themselves into a composition that pleases my eye.”
Chuck Close (b. 1940) is known as photorealist, with large scale works, and an interest in portraits. He uses very large format camera and transforms portraits and self-portraits in abstract works.
Chuck Close didn't have an easy life. He fought dyslexia, prosopagnosia, and paralysis. Some say that his health inspired him to do portraits, but probably his creativity didn't care about his condition. He used many painting and photographing techniques, always looking for something different. Think of ink, watercolor, finger painting, collage, woodcuts, and silkscreen because Chuck Close tried them all.
As photographer, Chuck Close is famous for Polaroid portraits. From common people to celebrities, the style of Chuck Close remained the same. He asked to have subjects without hairstyle and make up, even when the subjects were famous people like Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and Helen Mirren. Some of his features are single and composite Polaroids, large scale panels, and a lot of black and white photography.
Sometimes in the life of a photographer fame and controversy don't come from the same work. It's the case of Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 - 1989) who won the world with portrait and still-life photography and made it turn around with controversial nudes.
Robert Mapplethorpe started by photographing the people around him. His black and white portraits are powerful, touching, and real. He wasn't afraid to photograph artists, composers, and many of his friends. Later on he became interested in flowers, children, both female and male nudes, and celebrities large scale portraits. He was always exploring the ways of artistic expression through photography and studied the work of many known photographers. His works were beautiful, but provocative, and choosing male nudes added a different dimension. Robert Mapplethorpe is another example of how photography can mix with social issues, and change mentalities and perceptions.
Steven Meisel (b. 1954), a popular and appreciated fashion photographer, is a common name for Vogue and other famous fashion magazines. He did Madonna's pictures for her book, Sex (1992), and contributed for her albums as well. When it comes to fashion campaigns, Steven Meisel is everywhere, although he has long relationships with Prada and Anna Sui.
Steve Meisel has more than a photographic voice. He has style. His legacy isn't just good images and photo technique secrets. It is also a long list of successful models, whose careers were strongly influenced by their meeting with the photographer Steve Meisel.
He uses both black and white photography and colour photography, and any technique useful for the current photographic theme. Despite his fame, Steve Meisel doesn't have photo books or exhibitions. His private life is indeed private. His work is available in magazines and anywhere fashion can get.
Known for his cinematic images, Peter Lindbergh (b. 1944) is a German photographer and film director. Influenced by street and documentaries photographers, he redefined beauty and changed standards. He worked a lot in fashion and claimed that "A fashion photographer should contribute to defining the image of the contemporary woman or man in their time, to reflect a certain social or human reality." His images inspired people from music and fashion, but also a cultural renewal. Peter Lindbergh's black and white photography started the era of supermodels.
Besides his work in fashion, Peter Lindbergh did documentaries, posters, music record covers, and many exhibitions. Some say his passion for film made him introduce narratives in fashion photography. His simple and powerful approach transformed a world and made him one of the most influential fashion photographers.
Known as one of the most important portrait photographers of the XXth century, August Sander (1876 – 1964) didn’t have an easy life. He started photography by himself and served as an assistant photographer during his military service. He was fascinated by people, their work, and their environment. He spent a good part of his life travelling through Germany and collecting portraits of people. He called these images People of the XXth century and in 1929 published his book, Face of Our Time. Persecuted by the Nazi regime and with a son dead in prison for being member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, August Sander stopped taking pictures after the Second World War. He did save most of his negatives though.
August Sander’s portraits are appreciated as a form of documenting German life at the beginning of XXth century. They are dedicated to different categories of people, and show them with dignity and honesty. He used to say “let me speak the truth in all honesty about our age”.
Nancy ‘Nan’ Goldin (b. 1953) is an American photographer known for her intimate photographs of LGBT community. She lived among them and captured intense and touching moments of their life. Her work isn’t a psychological analysis neither a documenting job. It is full of emotions, love, and caring. It’s a cultural embracing.
Nan Goldin uses photography as a political argument as well. She documented HIV crisis, drug epidemics, post-punk music wave, and gay culture. Her pictures are often exhibit as a slideshow. She is always present in her images, as they feature friends of hers. Nan Goldin speaks freely about tabu subjects, but does it with sensibility and care. You can see her work in exhibitions, movie festivals, fashion shows, and museum collections.
Arthur Fellig (1899 - 1968) or Weegee is a photographer known for his black and white street photography. He had access to police radio and got to the crime scene just in time for documenting police activity. He is considered one of the first news photographers. To make art from crime and death isn't easy, but it is powerful. Weegee's work appeared in photo books and brought him in the world of movies.
Using basic gear, Weegee believed that you can make good photographs if you are there. Besides crime scenes, he used to photograph urban street life, but also freaks, nudists, and circus performers. Although he was successful during his lifetime, both for general public and for art critics, exhibitions came only after his death, the first one being mounted in 1993. His works are special, emotional, and connected. But they are also unusual, voyeuristic almost, and have a strong narrative.
Sir Don McCullin (b. 1935) is known as a war photographer, but his work covers many other difficult subjects. He photographed poor people, unemployed, London gangs, and many others. He started photography working for The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, Paris Match, Stern and Life, Sunday Times Magazine, and documenting catastrophes, wars, and conflicts. A Day in the Life of the Beatles is his book, published in 2010, with pictures taken in 1968 in several London locations.
Don McCullin's work brought him both fame and enemies. In 1968, somebody tried to shoot him, but his camera took the bullet. He was convinced that his images have political enemies, but he did them anyway. Books like The Palestinians (1980), Beirut: A City in Crisis (1983), Don McCullin in Africa (2005), Shaped by War (2010) are his legacy.
Some say he is the greatest war photographer of all times. His photographs from the Vietnam war changes the way people saw the war. He showed the true face of conflicts, the unedited pain, the struggle, the death. Maybe the most important thing he showed in his pictures was care. “I have a strong creative desire but I’m not trying to be an artist. I don’t need titles. I hate the title, ‘artist’. I just describe myself as a photographer.”, says Don McCullin in an interview for British Journal of Photography.
Slim Aarons (1916 - 2006) alias George Allen Aarons is famous for photographing rich people and celebrities. His works appeared in lifestyle magazines like Life, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Holiday, and others. He never looked for work, he knew everybody and was invited to all their parties and events. His photography is natural, stylish, and a good documentation for American high society in the XXth century.
From California to French Riviera, Slim Aarons was used to exclusive retreats and wealth. His pictures are fresh, his portraits are ingenue. Many of his pictures weren't published and were bought by Getty Images after his death.
William Eggleston (b. 1939) is an American photographer known for his artistic colour prints. His works were accepted at MoMA in 1976 as the third colour photography exhibition of this high validating institution. This moment is considered a changing point in colour photography history. It was probably for the first time that colour photography was perceived as art and not as commercial work.
William Eggleston signed a long list of books and publications, including a series of photographs of Elvis Presley's Graceland and one of Jimmy Carter's rural seat. His portfolio includes landscapes, street photography, everyday life, and portraits. With an extended taste for details and dye transfer printing process, Willian Eggleston followed the steps of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, and brought the XXth century into the world of fine art colour photography.
Joel-Peter Witkin (b. 1939) transformed photography into a complex tableaux. He often used classical paintings and religious moments as structure for his compositions. But among his subjects and characters you can find outsiders, people with physical deformations, death, and corpses. His techniques are also quite unusual. He used to scratch the negatives or to transform them using bleaching and chemicals.
Joel-Peter Witkin introduced cadavers, dwarfs, and other strong subjects to the world of art and photography. He says that he has "consecrated his life to changing matter into spirit with the hope of one day seeing it all".
You can admire his works in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
The creative director of U2 and Depeche Mode, Anton Corbijn (b. 1955) is a Dutch photographer and film director. For more than 30 years he has been the artist behind music videos of Depeche Mode, Nirvana, Coldplay, and others.
His photographic career includes music related images published in music magazines, but also portraits and documentary photography. He works with many famous musicians, but the longest collaboration he has is with U2. This includes photographing their tours and making covers for their albums.
Anton Corbijn does many atmospheric black and white portraits. Using long exposures, soft lights, intimacy, and dramatic contrast, Anton Corbijn shows the life behind the music. He loves music and his pictures show it. That's no wonder that so many famous artists choose him for album covers and music videos.
Brassaï alias Gyula Halász (1899 – 1984) is a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker who found glory in France. He began his career as a journalist, but discovered photography as a way of capture the essence of beloved Paris. His first collection of photographs was published in 1933 under the name Paris de Nuit (Paris by Night). He photographed the city and its atmosphere, but also the people. Intellectuals, high society, people of ballet and opera, and artists are among his subjects. Famous names like Dali, Picasso, and Matisse stood in front of his camera. He was called “the Eye of Paris”.
Brassaï’s black and white images are as bohemian as Paris itself. You can follow the photographer’s life and interests, and see his sensibility. Fascinated by Paris, Brassaï dedicated his entire photographic career to it. Fame and famous friends didn’t change that. He used to say “It is to know the beauty of the streets, the gardens, in rain and fog; it is to know the Paris night that I became a photographer.” In 1968 he stopped taking pictures and worked as a sculptor for the rest of his life.
Erwin Blumenfeld (1897 - 1969) is known for his experiments in the world of photography. Working as a fashion photographer for French and American Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Life, he was passionate about laboratory work. Under the influence of Dadaism and Surrealism, Erwin Blumenfeld fascinated his public with solarisation, photomontage, distortions, and elaborately contrived shadows and angles.
His career started under Nazi omens, with a photomontage which was later used in the Allied propaganda. Then he switched to fashion, where his innovations and experiments found a good territory. After the Second World War, he was the highest paid photographer in the world.
Erwin Blumenfeld was always an artist in his own way. His portfolio includes portraits, fine art works, nudes, advertising campaigns, but also celebrity portraits, drawings, and many collages. You can admire some of his works at the Riksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Duane Michals (b. 1932) is a complete photographer. Actually he is more than a photographer, he is a communicator. He is known for his way of documenting a story through a series of images and by adding handwritten text to convey even more information.
Duane Michals started his career as a commercial photographer, working for Esquire and Vogue. He photographed 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and the filming of The Great Gasby. He did photographs for music albums and addressed the gay theme. Either portraits, fine art or documenting photos, Duane Michals' images show emotion and add a dose of philosophy to our life. Regardless of the subject, he creates narratives. Adding text in form of poems or quotes is just another way of feeding the imagination. Duane Michals says “I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see.”
You can admire his works at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Born in 1954, Mario Testino is considered by some people the most prolific magazine and fashion trade photographer. He is known for working for Vogue, GQ, and Vanity Fair, but also for famous fashion brands. He is a very busy man, besides photography he worked as creative director, entrepreneur, art collector, and sometimes museum founder. His photographs appeared in exhibitions and books.
Mario Testino started his career documenting celebrities, musicians, artists, and models. His fame came after a series of photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales. After that he became the favored photographer of the European royal families. Fashion campaigns, portraits, and a sense of style transformed Mario Testino in a guru of fashion. The models he photographs become famous as well. Brands he supports are considered creative and innovative. His client list is very long, as well the list of his awards. Unfortunately, in 2018, almost 20 models accused him of sexual harassment. This closed many contracts, including the one for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the one with Vogue.
Mario Testino's images capture intimacy and look effortless. He shows the luxury in a realistic and fresh way. There is a balanced compromise between commercial aspects and artistic aspects that fashion loves about him. With almost 4 millions followers on Instagram, Mario Testino is definitely a style setter in fashion.
Mary Ellen Mark
Mary Ellen Mark (1940 - 2015) left a rich legacy for reportage photographers. She is known for photojournalism, documentary photography, portraits, and commercial photography. But she is known ever more for her attention towards people outside the mainstream of society.
She started her career photographing protests against the Vietnam War, transvestites, the women's liberation movement, and other sensible subjects. She was always there for the victims of drug addiction, for the homeless ones, for the lonely ones etc. She used to say "I feel an affinity for people who haven't had the best breaks in society. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence".
Her work was published in many publications (The New Yorker, Life, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone etc.), but also in 18 books. Streetwise (1983) and Tiny: Streetwise Revisited (2015) are the most famous series of photographs, documenting homeless youths over the course of 30 years. What strikes you most about her work is her presence. You can feel her standing there, behind the camera. She used to befriended with her subjects. She understood them and you can see from her images that she cared for them. Working a lot in black and white, Mary Ellen Mark is a kind and caring appearance in the world of photography.
Larry Clark (b. 1943) is a photographer and film director, known for his photo book called Tulsa (1971). His career is focused on youth and follows specific groups like surfing, skateboarding, and punk rock.
Tulsa is based on his own friends' drug use in his hometown. Using black and white photography, Larry Clark showed the world that drugs are not only the problem of urban, rich societies. The book has a follow-up called Teenage Lust (1983), which is also based on autobiographical material. The same themes may be found in his films.
Larry Clark hides nothing. His images are unfiltered. Confronted with youth sexuality, drug use, and violence, his images are iconic for a world we try not to see. His engagement with the subjects is deep and profound. He isn't there just for a few shoots, as himself explains “I am a storyteller. I've never been interested in just taking the single image and moving on. I always like to stay with the people I'm photographing for long periods of time.”
Mert & Marcus
Mert & Marcus alias Mert Alaş (b. 1971) and Marcus Piggott (b. 1971) are two fashion photographers who found the recipe of success in a partnership. They’ve been working together since 1994 and international fame came quickly. They work for Vogue, W magazine, Interview Magazine, and many other publications, but also for fashion brands (Dior, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, and others) and celebrities (Madonna, Lady Gaga, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Victoria Beckham, and others). They are known for portraits, mostly of women. They say they are different because they care very much about the appearances and spend hours in the makeup room. But the truth is their images are glossy and outstanding.
Mert & Marcus do both color and black and white photography. Their images are elegant and powerful. There is a kind of sensitive touch in a strong personality infusion. Flattering, but realistic, Mert & Marcus create amazing women. That’s no wonder their appealing work is producing a storm in fashion world. They are young, fresh, digital, and a true inspiration for modern fashion photography.
Corinne Day (1062 – 2010) is a British fashion photographer who transformed the perception of photography in the 1990s. She made the first Vogue cover featuring Kate Moss. In 2000 her book called Diary was finally published. Corinne Day spent years photographing her life and her friends. Sadly her second book was published in 2013, after her premature death.
Corinne Day was also fascinated by documentary photography. She documented the American tour of the band Pusherman and worked with other musicians too. Her book, Diary, shows young people doing everything the society doesn’t want to see (drugs, sex etc.). It was compared with Nan Goldin’s work. This fascination can be found in her fashion photography. There is less glamour and more reality. There is an iconic youth she established, ending the era of supermodels.
Her work is part of many exhibitions hosted by National Portrait Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery, The Science Museum, The Design Museum, The Photographers' Gallery, Gimpel Fils Gallery and was also included in The Andy Warhol exhibition at the Whitney Museum, New York. Corinne Day remains an inspiration to fashion photographers.
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