A Picture Worth 1,000 Words: Top 12 Famous Photographers of All Time
In the United States, there are currently about 50,000 professional photographers.
Out of all of these professional photographers, only a select few will be remembered and be famous enough to make it into the history books.
But what photographers have already made it into the history books? There are so many famous photographers, but here are a few that you definitely need to know about.
1. Gregory Crewdson
Gregory Crewdson is one of the best photographers because he puts so much money into making his photographs. Consider some movies with a million-dollar budget. Gregory Crewdson would use that same budget to create a single photograph.
He would set up an entire, large-scale set just to take a photograph or two. With each photograph, they get more and more extravagant.
One thing that makes Gregory Crewdson unique is that he uses everything available to him in order to get the style of photograph that he wants. Some of his pictures include broken fire hydrants, dilapidated buildings, and old towns.
He specializes in using a large-format camera in order to get the look and type of photograph that he wants.
If you get a chance, you need to check these photographs out in person. You can view them online, but they just don’t have the same depth and texture that they do in person.
You could spend hours looking at these eery photographs and absorbing every detail that’s in the photograph.
2. Robert Frank
Robert Frank isn’t as modern as Gregory Crewdson, but his work is still notable. He was born in 1924, and when he was seventeen years old, he became a photographer for commercials. He worked in Zurich and Geneva.
Six years later, he became a photographer for fashion. While he was doing that, he used a camera that people weren’t using at the time, which was the 35mm Leica.
Later on in his career, he diversified his portfolio even more and got into photojournalism and street photography. Once he started doing this, he really found his niche and made a name for himself.
He started traveling around the United States and started photographing some of what would end up being the best pictures in his portfolio.
His black and white photographs show the day-to-day lives of average Americans. He had a talent for capturing people’s real emotions, which his why so many people recognize his photographs.
Eventually, he compiled many of his famous photographs into a book called The Americans. To get content for his book, he drove across the entire American country in the 1950s. By doing this, he was able to get photographs of everyday Americans doing everyday things.
Once he had done all of that, he was able to compile and publish his book. He had a famous writer at the time, Jack Kerouac, write an introduction for it, but once it was published, many critics hated it.
As the years went on, the critics decided that maybe his work wasn’t all that bad. As the years went on, his photographs became something that would be considered classic art.
3. Diane Arbus
Diane Arbus was also a photographer who took black and white photos in America. However, unlike Robert Frank, she specialized in photographing New Yorkers during the ’50s and ’60s.
She loved photographing things that were outside of the norm. For example, she took photographs of people who performed in circuses, transgender people, disabled people, and even people with tattoos. Due to this, many people called her a “photographer of freaks.”
However, that’s also what made her portraits stand out from all the rest of them. In a time where people like that weren’t really accepted, Diane Arbus gave them a platform and a spotlight.
Arbus was so influential that they actually made a biographical movie on her called Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus.
4. Robert Capa
Robert Capa focused on photographing war, and he actually photographed five different wars.
He wanted to be close to all of his subjects in order to get good photographs, so he was often in the midst of all the combat and action.
This is what helped set him apart from other photographers because most other photographers only took them from a distance.
These black and white photos get up close and personal with common soldiers. They are a living part of history.
5. Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier is an interesting photographer, and she became famous after she died.
Her photographs were discovered by John Maloof in 2007. In a trunk he had purchased, he found a bunch of her undeveloped film. Once he developed them, he found thousands of photos that Maier had taken.
After her photographs were discovered, people started digging into her life and learning more about her. She was a nanny for most of her life, and she took most of her photos in New York and Chicago. She just captured anything that caught her attention.
Her camera of choice was a twin-lens 6×6 camera. She took it everywhere with her just in case she found something she wanted to photograph.
She practiced a lot, and you can tell that that practice paid off. Even though her photographers were more modern, it looks like she took them in the ’30s or ’40s.
She also took many photographs of some of the people on the street. Some of them are candid, like of little kids crying or people sleeping in their open convertible on the street.
6. Richard Avedon
Richard Avedon was born in 1923, and he lived until 2004.
His specialty was taking photos of fashion and people. As one of the earlier photographers, he helped to guide the style and fashion in America.
When he first started his career as a photographer, he worked for Harper’s Bazaar. After he worked for them for a while, he then started his own photography studio when he was only twenty-six years old. While he was there, he took pictures that would later appear in Life and Vogue.
He used a large-format 8×10 view camera, and slowly he started building his reputation as one of the most famous photographers.
He was interested in portraits especially because he enjoyed capturing the personality of his subjects. He always tried to bring his photographs to life and make you feel like you really knew the person that you were looking at.
7. Andy Warhol
You may have heard of Andy Warhol before. While he is known for his unique and famous paintings, he was actually into photography as well.
He viewed photography as a way to capture the real things in life, and he saw it as a type of visual diary. When you look at his art and photography, you’ll find that a lot of it has a double meaning, so an art critic may wonder if keeping a visual diary was ever really his intention.
The “Father of Pop Art” first started using a Brownie camera when he was only ten years old. He had grown up in Pittsburgh, so many of his first photographs were taken in his local neighborhood.
Later, in the ’70s, he started using a Polaroid camera. Once he became skilled at using Polaroids, he was actually commissioned to start taking Polaroids of famous celebrities.
Eventually, he was able to have his own studio, and he started taking these commissioned Polaroids against a plain white background. This style of Polaroids made the celebrity the focus. In addition to these famous Polaroids, he also took many famous black and white photographs.
He kept taking photographs up until when he died in 1987.
If you’re looking for Andy Warhol art, there are many places where you can find it. If you like it enough, some of it is even available to buy so you can hang this famous art in your own home.
8. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in 1908 and then died in 2004.
Unlike some of the other photographers on this list, he was a French photographer. He mastered the art of candid photography. He took these candids on the street, capturing some of the most intimate and realistic moments.
During a time where no one was really using 35mm film, he decided that he was going to become a master of it.
Later on, when he had enough photographs, he made a book out of all of them. In this book, he made all of his subjects come to life and make you feel like you really knew them and saw them in real life.
9. Tim Walker
Tim Walker is also a fashion photographer, but he has said before he doesn’t really care about how important the brands are or not. This is what gives him a unique advantage.
He has an active imagination, and this shows up in his creativity. Even though he’s a fashion photographer, he’s also photographed portraits for actors, directors, and designers.
In some of his portraits, he incorporates florals and creates a surreal, fantasy picture. His colorful and vibrant photos are something that would fit a calming, interesting aesthetic.
10. Ansel Adams
Instead of taking portraits or shooting fashion photography, Ansel Adams is a popular nature and landscape photographer.
His photographs are so popular that you’ve probably seen them at some point; you just may not have realized whose photographs they were. His photographs appear in books, on posters, and even as screen savers. Some of his most popular photographs include black and white photos of Yosemite Valley in California.
He was important for inventing a system to make sure they had a good exposure for black and white films. This process is called Fred Archer, and many photographers still use it today.
11. Gary Winogrand
Gary Winogrand is another street photographer who was based in New York City.
At the beginning of his career, he was a freelance photojournalist. In addition to that, he also took advertisement photos.
Unlike other famous photographers, he would take a photograph without looking through the camera lens. Instead of trying to find a focal point through the lens of the camera, he would just guess where it was and hope it turned out.
Despite this odd technique, his photographs still came out perfectly, proving just how much natural talent he had.
As he practiced, he got better and better at doing this, and his black and white photos became famous around the world.
He also used a wide-angle lens, even when shooting portraits. This technique wasn’t commonly used, but somehow it still worked.
12. Philippe Halsman
Lastly, Philippe Halsman is another photographer that you should know about.
He was popular in the ’40s, and he photographed for the next thirty years until he passed away in 1979. If you’ve subscribed to LIFE magazine, you’ve probably seen his photographs. He has the record for the most covers for one photographer for the magazine.
If you’ve heard of Salvador Dali, you may not be surprised to hear that these two were actually close friends. They collaborated on many creative projects as well. The popular Salvador Dali portrait you see with his mustache hairs pointing straight up was actually shot by Halsman.
Salvador Dali wasn’t the only famous person Halsman photographed though. There are also pictures of Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Marilyn Monroe.
He was always good at getting his subjects to feel natural and comfortable when he was behind the camera. He had a great sense of humor, which you can see in most of his work.
Discover More Famous Photographers
These are only a few of the famous photographers from history, but there are so many more out there.
If you get a chance, try going to a photography or art museum to see some of these photographer’s photos in real life. Even though you can view them online, there’s something special about seeing them up close in person.
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