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10 Famous Photographers to Inspire You on Your Art Journey

When you just start with photography, it’s important to learn from excellency. If you’re devoted to the art of photography, prominent photographers, their works and stories, are a must for initial research and inspiration. It’s a good place to start to learn about light, technique and to find inspiration for your own artistic experiments. All the world-famous photographers became renowned for a reason. During their life, they made significant contributions to documenting history, people, and capturing fragments of life. Their works reflect something fundamental about the art of photography. These photographers have left a huge impact on the industry as a whole. So, this article lists the top 10 world-famous photographers and their most recognized works.

1. Henri-Cartier Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004)

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Публикация от Fondation H. Cartier-Bresson (@fondationhcb)

Henri Cartier-Bresson is probably the most famous photographer in the world and the first one to learn about when you are curious about photography. This French humanist artist became prominent as the master of candid photography. He was also one of the founders of renowned Magnum Photos in 1947 (alongside Robert Capa and David Seymour). Cartier-Bresson was a pioneer of street photography. The uniqueness of his artistic path lies within the fact that he strongly believed in spontaneous, unstaged photography. He wrote a book on the importance of the decisive moment in photography. He believed that the difference between painting and photography is that the latter captures the exact moment of life. And if you miss the perfect shot, you will miss the moment too!

2. Robert Capa (October 22, 1913 – May 25, 1954)

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Публикация от Fondation H. Cartier-Bresson (@fondationhcb)

Robert Capa (born Endre Friedmann) was a Hungarian-American war photographer. He is one of the greatest photojournalists ever lived, being a master of adventure photography. At the beginning of his photography career, he worked with his partner and another famous war photographer Gerda Taro under the alias Robert Capa. Afterwards, she worked under her own alias, and Endre Friedmann became Robert Capa in his own path. Capa is famous for his photo reports from several wars, especially for documenting the Spanish Civil War and World War II in Europe. To get his famous shots, he often risked his life. He died by stepping on a mine at the age of 40, trying to capture a war zone under open fire.

3. Annie Leibovitz (October 2, 1949 – present)

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Annie Leibovitz is the most famous female photographer, declared a living legend by the Library of Congress. Many of her works are instantly recognizable as she is well-known for authentic portraits of celebrities. She was the first woman to have a major exhibition of her works at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. Annie Leibovitz was the artist behind the famous portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono on 8 December 1980. The photoshoot took place just a few hours before Lennon was killed by Mark Chapman, and the photo subsequently became very famous.

4. Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (August 30, 1863 – September 27, 1944)

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Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was a prominent Russian royal photographer who started experiments with photography. Prokudin-Gorsky was a color photography pioneer. He started his experiments with color photography long before color film was even invented! His method included taking three same shots using blue, green, and red color filters. Afterward, shots were projected onto each other, resulting in a colored image. One of his most well-known photos is the color portrait of Leo Tolstoy, a Russian writer who is famous for his novels ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’. Prokudin-Gorsky took this shot in 1908, and its fame resulted in an invitation from the Tsar family to show his works in 1909. Prokudin-Gorsky’s photography really impressed Nicholas II so that he was ready to support this talent. The photographer received permission and funding to document life in the Russian Empire of the early 20th century. He got a railroad-car darkroom to travel across the empire by train for several years. He considered it the project of his life. Gorsky was a very prolific artist who created more than 10,000 photographs in 10 years. While some of his negatives were lost, but the U.S. Library of Congress took many of them after his death. They kept them until the early 2000s when they digitized the collection for public viewing.

5. Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965)

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Dorothea Lange was an American photojournalist and a prominent figure in documentary photography, who definitely influenced the whole genre. She started as a studio photographer, shooting elites, but then switched to documenting the lives of ordinary people. Lange is best known for her works for Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. She shot the life of real people, traveled to rural areas, and showed how the economic crisis had hit society with her photos. One of her most recognizable pictures is the portrait of a woman with her children – ‘Migrant Mother’. This picture became a symbol of the Depression-era archive.

6. James Nachtwey (March 14, 1948 – present)

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James Nachtwey is a world-famous war photographer and a renowned photojournalist who has worked with Time magazine since 1984 and was a long-term Magnum Photos member. Nachtwey has documented many military conflicts around the world, traveling across Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and post-soviet countries, and South Africa. He got a serious combat injury in a grenade explosion in Iraq, where he was documenting the invasion of the country. The photographer also witnessed the 9/11 attacks and took several recognized shots. He was injured by a bullet in 2014 when he was in Thailand shooting political turmoil and protests. James Nachtwey is a great example of a photographer who will do everything to do their job well. He documents the tragic and even terrifying moments of the world we live in, regardless of how dangerous it is.

7. Richard Avedon (May 15, 1923 – October 1, 2004)

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Richard Avedon was a prominent American fashion and portrait photographer. He worked with Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Life magazines. According to The New York Times, his photos defined the image of American culture and style for as long as half of the century. Avedon became his photography journey when he was only 12. Throughout his long career, the photographer has always captured the soul of his subject, trying to show the personality of each person he has captured. His top photos were black and white portraits of famous people, showing them in a unique and refreshing way. Avedon is the photographer behind the most famous portrait of Salvador Dali. He also shot several widely recognized portrait photos of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Brigitte Bardot. He also created several studio shootings for The Beatles.

8. Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971)

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Diane Arbus was an outstanding American photographer of Russian-Jewish heritage. She is famous for street portraits of New-York citizens of the 50s and 60s. This photographer didn’t just shoot people and portraits. She always tried to show ‘the other side’ of life. Arbus is one of the most important photographers of the time. Her work featured those subject matters that society ignored at the time. Despite growing up in a wealthy family, she wanted to capture marginalized groups of people to normalize them at the times when nobody even thought about equality and proper social representation. Her targets were often LGBTQ members, circus performers, strippers, nudists, disabled people, and other marginalized groups of the time. Most called Arbus ‘the photographer of freaks’. She shot her subjects, not as a bystander or an observer, but befriended them and showed them in their natural surroundings, destroying the distance between them and the viewer. All of her prominent photos have an intensity to them, which makes them very powerful.

9. Peter Lindbergh (23 November, 1944 – 3 September, 2019)

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Peter Lindbergh was one of the most famous and influential fashion photographers of all time. This German photographer worked with Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar numerous times, creating recognized magazine covers. He was called a man behind the phenomena of supermodels. Peter Lindbergh is the only photographer who shot the famous Pirelli calendar three times (Annie Leibovitz released two calendar issues). He created numerous well-known portraits of celebrities and mostly worked with black and white photography. One of his last works before his death in September 2019 was shooting for the September issue of British Vogue. The cover included portraits of 15 influential women shot by Lindbergh, and the guest editor of the issue was The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle.

10. Sally Mann (May 1, 1951 – present)

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Публикация от Fondation H. Cartier-Bresson (@fondationhcb)

Sally Mann is one of the world’s most famous and controversial photographers. Her most well-known body of work is ‘Immediate Family’, consisting of 65 black-and-white images. It portrays Mann’s three children, all of whom were under the age of 10 at the time of the photoshoot. The project explores the fragile line between childhood and adulthood. While it shows typical summer activities of kids who played with their toys, dressed up and swam nude, it also includes the themes of death, sexuality, addiction, insecurity, and loneliness. Today these portraits are recognizable, and at one time most considered them scandalous. Sally Mann had an exhibition with the photos in Chicago in 1990 and published a photo book later, which brought her fame in the art world. At the same time, Mann’s work was accused of child pornography. Today, though, Sally Mann is one of the greatest photographers alive.

An afterthought

Each of the world’s best photographers gained their fame for very unique reasons. However, there is something in common that separates them all, namely their total dedication to their work. Be it a military photographer or a fashion photographer, each had something to offer the world. They told a story through their works and changed the world for the better.