Great photographs can elicit thoughts, feelings, and emotions when words simply will not suffice. Throughout history, there have been many important people in the field of photography who have used their cameras to catch a single moment in time to tell a story. Below is a list of the most famous photographers of all time and their contributions starting with the most important.
|Terry Richardson (1965)
Famous For: Modern “straight photography”
As a fashion photographer, Richardson’s work has appeared in GQ, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. He has worked advertising campaigns for famous fashion brands with likes of Aldo, Marc Jacobs, Supreme, and YSL (Yves Saint Laurent).
| Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Famous For: Nature and wilderness photography in black and white
The work of Ansel Adams in the world of photography set the standard on the dramatic use of black and white in capturing nature as it is. He developed a system to combine exposure and contrast in photography, giving the final product an unforgettable quality, this is known as the Zone System.
|Helmut Newton (1920-2004)
Famous For: Black and white fashion photography
The style of Helmut Newton has been imitated by many. His work in the field of fashion photography includes near permanent status on the covers of Vogue magazine.
| Diane Arbus (1923-1971)
Famous For: Being the “photographer of freaks”
Diane Arbus’s photographs bordered between reality and the surreal. Her subjects included circus people, dwarfs, giants, and nudists.
|Anne Geddes (1956)
Famous For: Her baby centered photographs
Australian Anne Geddes and her photographic work revolves around babies. She is a self-described “baby-freak.” Her NY Times bestseller Down in the Garden is a prime example on the miracle of babies.
| Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)
Famous For: Modern photojournalism and candid photography
Carier-Bresson used the 35mm camera format to capture candid moments, thus he is referred to as the “master of candid photography.” He is also viewed as the “father of modern photojournalism” due to the style he used the street photography style in bringing character to his subjects.
|Richard Avedon (1923-2004)
Famous For: Being America’s leading fashion photographer
Avedon’s career began as an advertising photographer at a department store. This later led to his work being recognized that his photographs could be seen in magazines such as Life and Vogue.
| David LaChapelle (1963)
Famous For: Kitsch pop surrealism
LaChapelle’s work is mainly paying homage to “art history” and conveying a “social message”. Andy Warhol recognized the talent in a young David and gave him a job at Interview magazine.
|Robert Capa (1913-1954)
Famous For: Combat photography
Hungarian born Robert Capa was a war time photo-journalist and photographer. He covered the Spanish Civil War, 2nd Sino-Japan War, World War 2 in Europe, the First Indo-China War, and the Arab Israeli War in 1948. In addition, he chronicled in pictures the events of WW II that include Omaha Beach in Normandy, Italy, North Africa, Paris, and London.
| Mario Testino (1954)
Famous For: Vanity Fair photoshoot of Princess Di
The career of Testino as fashion photographer is highlighted by his selection to photograph the late Princess Di for a Vanity Fair spread. Ever since, he has been used by the royal family in Britain.
|Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Famous For: Depression Era photographs like “Migrant Mother”
As one of the earliest documentary photojournalists, Lange provided images that showed the drastic results the Great Depression had on many American families.
| Edward Weston (1886-1958)
Famous For: being “one of the most innovative and influential American photographers…”
The subjects of Edward Weston are varied, from landscapes to nudes to portraits to still life and more. His influence to American photography resonates to this day. His focus was on the American West, on the different places and on the people of that portion of the United States.
|David Bailey (1938)
Famous For: Swinging London a BBC documentary
Bailey’s work as a fashion photographer goes all the way back to 1960 where he worked for Vogue magazine in the UK. In 2012, along with two other photographers, the work of Bailey could be seen the BBC documentary Swinging London.
| Martin Parr (1952)
Famous For: Capturing photographs of provincial and suburban England
Parr is recognized for his images that capture life in suburban and provincial England in modern times. He is a photojournalist and photographer that documents the day to day challenges of life.
|Andreas Gursky (1955)
Famous For: Rhein II, most expensive photograph in the world
Using large format photography, Gursky is a visual artist that captures landscape and architecture in color. His photograph, Rhein II, which measures 143″ x 73″, was sold in 2011 for $4.3 million, the most expensive for a photograph.
| Ellen von Unwerth (1954)
Famous For: Her work with model Claudia Schiffer.
Model turned photographer Ellen von Unwerth has worked with the popular magazines that include Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Interview only to name a few. She specializes in “erotic femininity.”
|Scott Kelby (1960)
Famous For: Photoshop Insider
As a photographer, Scott Kelby shares his knowledge as a publisher and author on utilizing the now popular “Adobe Photoshop” software. His books and programs are aimed for artists, design professionals, and photographers.
| Nigel Barker (1972)
Famous For: Appearance on America’s Next Top Model
From almost a doctor to model to photographer, this was the genesis of Nigel Barkers journey into photography. His photo credits include Cover, GQ, Town and Country, and Seventeen among them. He has also appeared on reality TV shows on modelling across the globe.
|Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)
Famous For: The zoopraxiscope and his work on motion picture projection
Known for his Yosemite Valley landscape photographs, Muybridge pioneered the work on the study of motion pictures and “in-motion picture projection.” He also began work on what is known as animal locomotion and developed the zoopraxiscope.
| Allan Arbus (1918-2013)
Famous For: His role in the TV series M*A*S*H
Alan Arbus began his career as a photographer for the US Army. Along with fellow photographer and wife Diane, they began an advertising photography business in New York City. His photographic works have appeared on Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Seventeen, Vogue and many others. He later left photography and went into acting.
| Cecil Beaton (1904-1980)
Famous For: Being an Academy Award winner for costume and stage design
The all around photographer, Cecil Beaton was a war, fashion, and portrait photographer. The first camera he held was a Kodak 3A, then a large format camera and eventually the compact SLR.
| Patrick Demarchelier (1943)
Famous For: Covers on Rolling Stone, Life, Newsweek and more
Demarchelier was a transplant from Paris to New York city where he began as freelance photographer, and later as a fashion photographer. Many of his campaigns include advertising work Celine, Dior, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and YSL.
| Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976)
Famous For: Botanical photography
Imogen Cunningham’s photographs of plants is unmistakable. The composition and final print style she used have “wow’d” generations past and present. She also is known for her on landscapes and nudes.
| Paul Strand (1890-1976)
Famous For: Establishing photography as an art form
As a photographer and filmmaker, Paul Strand’s influence spans many decades. Considered as a “modernist photographer”, the diversity of subjects seen in his photographs leave a memorable image in the viewers mind.
| Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971)
Famous For: Work in combat zones and pictures of the Soviet Union
One of the more famous documentary photographers, Margaret is best known for being the first non-Soviet photographers to capture images of the Soviet Russia. She is also the first woman allowed to work in a combat environment.
| Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)
Famous For: Portrait of Winston Chruchill
What would famous people be without portrait photographers like Yousuf Karsh? Not famous. Among his famous portraits include Humphrey Bogart, Muhammad Ali, Grace Kelly, and of course Winston Churchill.
| Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)
Famous For: Portraits with legendary themes and Charles Darwin
One of the earliest women portrait photographers, Julia was able to capture images of people who continue to stir generations after them. She also did photographic illustrations. Those whom she captured in film include literary giants Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, actress Ellen Terry, and scientist Charles Darwin.
| Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995)
Famous For: Photographs related to World War 2
Working as photographer in Nazi Germany, Alfred, who happened to be a Jew, moved to the United States where he worked taking photographs of politicians and celebrities
| Berenice Abbott (1898-1991)
Famous For: Pictures of urban New York architecture in black and white
Berenice Abbott took advantage of the subjects surrounding her, the urban architecture of New York City. She extensively used the black and white format that allowed to help highlight some details that gave character to the photograph.
| Eddie Adams (1933-2004)
Famous For: The execution during the Vietnam War
Serving in the US Marine Corps as a “combat photographer” during the Korean War, Adams captured images of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that took him thirty days to complete. His most famous work was during the Vietnam War, the execution of Nguyen Van Lem.
| Edward Curtis (1868-1952)
Famous For: Photographs of the American West
Just as any photographer does, he or she will use the environment and the people that surrounds them to be subjects of their work. This is what Curtis did with the American West and the Native American people, he captured their images.
| Nick Ut (1951)
Famous For: Image of the Vietnam War, naked young girl running away from bombing
Working for the Associated Press since he was 16, Nick Ut worked in Hanoi, South Korea, and Tokyo. He received a Pulitzer for his photograph during the Vietnam War of a naked girl running towards him and away from a napalm bombing.
| Jerry Uelsmann (1934)
Famous For: Use of photo-montage
There is the work on the outside, and the work in the dark-room. This is where Uelsmann excelled bringing together “negatives” to make one unforgettable picture.
| Annie Leibovitz (1949)
Famous For: Picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Portrait photography as an art-form is best exemplified by Annie Leibovitz. She has had the opportunity to take pictures of celebrities like Queen Elizabeth II, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Joan Armatrading, and John Lennon.
| Brassaï (1899-1984)
Famous For: Images of Paris
Shadow and light, the play between the two is evident in the work of Brassai. He captured the mystique that is Paris and compiled that work in his book Paris de Nuit (Paris by Night).