17.02.10

100 Most influential photographers of all time

Top 100

1. Richard Avedon American 1923-2004
Avedon was the epitome of the modern photographer – a charming, sophisticated man-about-town and a photographer who was able to cross photographic genres. It did not matter where he was, which format he chose to work with or who his subject was, the image would be an Avedon image. It would have that unmistakeable elegance and confidence that marked him out, not just as a great photographer but as a highly successful commercial photographer, who was able to create instantly iconic and memorable images. So what’s his influence? His large-format portrait style with the stark white background, his use of two images to tell one portrait story, his use of strobe lights in fashion, the book In The American West? Of course it’s all this and more.Avedon is a photographer whom every photographer should get to know via his books. They cover his whole career and not only chart his own photographic and personal development but also, that of commercial photography over the last half of the twentieth century. Quite simply he is our No.1. www.richardavedon.com

2. W. Eugene Smith American 1918-1978
Intense and at times obsessed with his work. He helped establish the photo story and the power of black & white printing. www.smithfund.org

3. Helmut Newton German 1920-2004
Newton created erotically charged and powerful images of women, and developed the use of ring flash in fashion images. www.helmutnewton.com

4. Irving Penn American 1917- 2009
Every portrait shot in the corner of a room or simple symbolic still life owes something to Penn. He is the established genius of American Vogue magazine. www.irvingpenn.com

5. Guy Bourdin French 1928-1991
No one has been more imitated over the last few years in fashion and art photography than Bourdin. Erotic, surreal and controversial. www.guybourdin.org

6. Henri Cartier-Bresson French 1908-2004
The creator of ‘The decisive moment’. He never cropped his images and only shot in black & white. A Leica-wielding legend.

7. Diane Arbus American 1923-1971
Freaks, loners and people on the edges of society’s norms were Arbus‘s subjects. Her direct and simple portrait style and subject matter have inspired ever since. www.diane-arbus-photography.com

8.Elliott Erwitt French 1928-
Magnum member and humorous observer of everyday life. His juxtapositions of form and images of dogs show art is where you find it. www.elliotterwitt.com

9. Walker Evans American 1903-1975
The chronicler of American life who brought a detached observer’s eye to all of his images. He created order and beauty through composition where there was none.

10. Martin Parr British 1952-
Parr’s use of intense colour and his ability to raise the snapshot to the level of art has led to him being recognised as the master chronicler of the every day. www.martinparr.com

11. Juergen TellerGerman 1964-
The master of ‘non-photography’, Teller’s images are anti-technique and blow apart the establishment’s view of photography.

12. Nick Knight British 1958-
The most influential fashion photographer in the world and one of the most sought-after. Knight’s openness to new forms, techniques and processes keeps on the cutting edge.

13. David Bailey British 1938-
For the portraits, the fashion, the wives, the wise cracks, the Olympus ads in the eighties, Blow-up, there is only one Bailey. www.david-bailey.co.uk

14. Cindy Sherman American 1954-
The ultimate self-portraitist, Sherman’s use of herself as the model was at the forefront of photography being recognised as art.

15. Andreas Gursky German 1955-
The concept of documentary/landscape photography being accepted as contemporary art stems from Gursky’s images. www.artnet.com

16. Edward Weston American 1886-1958
Weston’s experiments with shape, form and light, the female nude and natural forms influenced a whole century of photographers who followed him. www.edward-weston.com

17. Garry Winogrand American 1928-1984
A pioneer of street photography, Winogrand’s approach of not looking through the viewfinder became his trademark which led to his fluid and innovative compositions.

18. Bruce Weber American 1946-
Weber is so influential in the worlds of fashion and portraiture that company brands are based on the world which he creates with his images: The All-American Ideal. www.bruceweber.com

19. Man Ray American 1890-1976
Surrealist and painter. Lee Miller was his muse but it was with his darkroom experimentation that his influence was strongest, creating his ‘rayograms’ and solarized images.

20. Paolo Roversi Italian 1947-
The Italian master of the 10x8in Polaroid fashion image. His use of low light and soft focus combined with muted intense colour is often imitated but never bettered. www.paoloroversi.com

21. Herb Ritts American 1952-2002
The prince of eighties Californian glamour and celebrity. His work inspired Madonna in her videos and filled magazines for over a decade.

22. Annie Leibovitz American 1949-
She started out as the staff photographer at Rolling Stone and is now at Vanity Fair. She’s shot everyone and her portraits define our times.

23. Ansel Adams American 1902-1984
The king of wilderness landscape photography and the deviser of the ‘zone system’ for metering and exposure. www.anseladams.com

24. David LaChapelle American 1963-
LaChapelle uses post-production techniques combined with an ability to create fantastical ‘pop photography’ images. www.lachapellestudio.com

25. William Klein American 1928-
The anarchic rebel of fashion, reportage and film making. His wide-angle ‘in your face approach’ lives on, as does his attitude.

26. Bill Brandt German 1904-1983
The master of the distorted female nude and surrealist portrait. Brandt’s world was a dark one filled with menace. www.billbrandt.com

27. Ralph Gibson American 1939-
Gibson was a hero to photography students in the seventies and his nudes and graphic images were much imitated. www.ralphgibson.com

28. Stephen Shore American 1947-
Shore’s work is a visual record of a never-ending American road trip. His images seem deceptively easy to replicate, which has led to many photographers trying. www.billcharles.com

29. Robert FrankSwiss 1924-
One of the true innovators in the cross over between stills and film. Frank would be included in this list just for his book The Americans. www.npr.org

30. Andre Kertesz Hungarian 1894-1985
Kertesz brought a reflective eye to street photography and showed how portraiture can be an extension of reportage.

31. Chuck Close American 1940-
Close is all about detail and the greater whole. His oversize images have influenced many to exhibit big. www.chuckclose.coe.uh.edu

32. Robert Mapplethorpe American 1946-1989
His erotic images of male nudes caused controversy but it was his portrait and still-life work that made the most impact. www.mapplethorpe.org

33. Steven Meisel American 1954-
The darling of the fashion world and the great American stylist. His images reference the history of photography and style. www.artandcommerce.com

34. Peter Lindbergh German 1944-
Lindbergh has helped create the concept of the supermodel with his fashion images for Harper’s Bazaar and Italian Vogue. www.peterlindbergh.com

35. August Sander German 1876-1964
Sander’s ambition to use photography to document not only created an incredible archive of portraiture, it also brought a scientific approach to the art of photography.

36. Nan Goldin American 1953-
The queen of grunge, Goldin turned her lens on her drug-using and transvestite friends to create shocking images that saw personal reportage re-born. www.artnet.com

37. Weegee Austrian 1899-1968
He had a police radio in his car and got to crime scenes before they did, creating the archetypal image of a news photographer.

38. Don McCullin British 1935-
McCullin’s images of war and suffering not only took a heavy toll on him, they also helped influence political decisions. www.markgeorge.com

39. Slim Aarons American 1916-2006
Aarons’ social reportage of the glamorous, rich and famous of the fifties and sixties have become historical documents and stylistic touch points. www.staleywise.com

40. William Eggleston American 1939-
Eggleston’s use of intense colour, uneasy composition and disconcerting subject matter bought him to prominence and gained acceptance for colour photography as art.

41. Joel-Peter WitkinAmerican 1939-
The master of the macabre, Witkin’s still life tableaux are some of the most shocking photographic images ever created. www.edelmangallery.com

42. Anton Corbijn Dutch 1955-
Corbijn’s images of Joy Division and U2 have influenced the approach of rock photographers for over 20 years with his cross-process colours and atmospheric black & whites.

43. Brassai French 1899-1984
Brassai’s images of Paris at night and his experimental use of location lighting defined the art of night photography.

44. Erwin Blumenfeld German 1897-1969
Blumenfeld’s work in fashion and beauty focused on techniques such as solarization, wet silk, and elaborately contrived shadows and angles. He was way ahead of his time.

45.Duane Michals American 1932-
Michals use of text and collage in his images brought an intellectual dimension to his work. A photographer and communicator.

46. Mario Testino Peruvian 1954-
Mario Testino’s images are the epitome of glamour and high fashion. He lives the life and photographs it. Every fashion photographer’s dream.

47. Mary Ellen Mark American 1940-
Mary Ellen Mark started photographing the streets she lived in and developed into one of the world’s leading reportage photographers.

48. Larry Clark American 1943-
Following a similar road to Nan Goldin, Larry Clark took his experiences in Tulsa to creating startling images that influenced the grunge generation. www.larryclarkofficialwebsite.com

49. Mert & Marcus Turkish and British 1971-
Based in London this photographic partnership fully embraced the digital photographic relationship with post production and took the fashion world by storm. www.mertandmarcus.com

50. Corinne Day British 1965-
Influenced by Goldin and Clark and a close friend of Kate Moss, Corinne Day’s fashion images and personal reportage create controversy and commercial praise. www.corinneday.co.uk

51. Cecil BeatonBritish 1904-1980
The ultimate social photographer, diarist and friend to the social, fashion and rock ‘n’ roll aristocracy. He brought elegance to all. www.staleywise.com

52. Eric Boman American 1938-
Boman shot the first two Roxy Music covers and encapsulates his glamorous lifestyle in all he shoots for Vogue. http://images.google.com

53. Patrick Demarchelier French 1943-
Where Testino brings glamour to fashion, Demarchelier brings sophistication and understated glamour to all of his images.

54. Bert Hardy British 1913-1995
In post-war Britain, Hardy documented the country at work and at play with a reporter’s eye. www.photographersgallery.com

55. Tim Walker British 1970-
Over the last few years Walker has achieved incredible success with his highly innovative, stylised and propped images for both editorial and commercial clients. www.timwalkerphotography.com

56. Terry Richardson American 1965-
Richardson’s fashion and portrait images push sexual boundaries and challenge conservative taste with an American trash aesthetic. www.terryrichardson.com

57. Norman Parkinson British 1913-1990
The gentleman of British photography who brought a debonair, slightly caddish, flair to all that he photographed. www.normanparkinson.com

58. Snowdon British 1930-
Snowdon’s portraits and reportage for The Sunday Times Magazine broke boundaries and asked questions of society. www.npg.org.uk

59. Horst P. Horst German 1906-1999
Horst’s classical approach to nudes, portraits and fashion is less influential now than it once was but his work still offers much in formal lighting and composition. www.horstphorst.com

60. Philip Jones Griffiths British 1936-2008
Jones Griffiths horrifying and compelling images from Vietnam inspired countless war photographers and showed them how it should be done. www.magnumphotos.com

61. Jeanloup SieffFrench 1933- 2000
The French David Bailey, Sieff modelled for Avedon, shared a studio with Horvat and perfected his photographic approach with one light, a Nikon camera and a grey backdrop.

62. Bob Carlos Clarke British 1950-2006
Carlos Clarke took Helmut Newton’s super powerful dominatrix woman and added a graphic, erotic approach creating iconic images in black and white latex. www.bobcarlosclarke.com

63. Mick Rock British 1949-
The rock photographer’s rock photographer, Mick Rock hung out in the seventies with Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and created seminal images that summed up the era. www.mickrock.com

64. Sebastião Salgado Brazilian 1944-
Salgado’s black and white social reportage photography brings to light social injustice and ecological disasters. www.magnumphotos.com

65. David Loftus British 1963-
Loftus’s natural approach to shooting food has led a revolution in food photography with the new emphasis being on honesty and ingredients over perfection and unreality. www.davidloftus.com

66. Brian Duffy British 1933-
One of the ‘Cockney Three’ along with Bailey and Terry Donovan. Duffy gave up photography to restore furniture but his legacy is powerful.

67. Simon Norfolk British 1963-
A self-described landscape photographer, Norfolk’s use of the large format camera in war-ravaged areas has seen a resurgence of large format. www.simonnorfolk.com

68. Araki Japanese 1940-
Araki’s controversial images of bound women, flowers and food have created a worldwide following for this driven photographer.

69. Ellen Von Unwerth German 1954-
Model turned photographer, Von Unwerth’s work brought a new approach to shooting women’s fashion, with a female sexuality brought to the fore. www.artandcommerce.com

70. Leni Riefenstahl German 1902-2003
The controversial photographer and film maker whose images from the 1936 Nazi Berlin Olympics have inspired photographers every where 

71. Edward Steichen Luxembourger 1879-1973
A pioneer of photography and sensitive photographer. He helped create commercial photography in the twentieth century

72. Alfred Stieglitz American 1864-1946
Another photographic pioneer, but Stieglitz was also a craftsman who used natural elements to inform his platinum prints. www.masters-of-photography.com

73. Roger Fenton British 1819-1869
Fenton’s images created during the Crimean War mark him out as one of the first true great war photographers. http://www.geh.org

74. George Hoyningen-Huene Russian 1900-1968
From an aristocratic Russian background, Huene became a seminal fashion and portrait photographer for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in America. www.staleywise.com

75. Sarah Moon British 1940-
Moon’s fashion and personal images have influenced every photographer who’s seen her work and marvelled at her use of colour.

76. Frank HorvatItalian 1928-
Horvat shared a studio with William Klein in New York and went on to create some of the most iconic fashion images of the fifties and sixties. www.horvatland.com

77. Alexander Rodchenko Russian 1891-1956
Rodchenko was one of the founders of constructivism and brought the arts of photo montage, analytical documentary and innovative angles to his work. www.masters-of-photography.com

78. Julia Margaret Cameron British 1815-1879
One of the few female photographic pioneers, Cameron photographed her family with very little technical expertise and created soulful sepia portraits that still inspire today.

79. Angus McBean British 1904-1990
The surrealist who made the photographing of actors his personal domain. McBean’s photographic wit and personal charm is in every image. www.npg.org.uk

80. Deborah Turbeville American 1938-
Turbeville bought a magical quality to her fashion and interiors work and popularised the use of grain to create atmosphere. www.deborahturbeville.com

81. Tim Page British 1944-
His work and images forged in the Vietnam war reportedly inspired Dennis Hopper’s character in Apocalypse Now. www.timpageimage.com.au

82. Harri Peccinotti British 1938-
The legendary art director of Nova magazine turned fashion photographer who used graphic forms to define photography. http://images.google.com

83. Eve Arnold American 1912-
As a member of Magnum, Arnold used her gentle manner to create iconic images of the greatest movies of the last century. www.magnumphotos.com

84. Jane Bown British 1925-
The quiet newspaper photographer for The Observer who only uses one camera and takes exposure readings off the back of her hand. An inspiration and still shooting today.

85. Michael Thompson American
Thompson is the archetypal New York fashion and beauty photographer. His clean lines and attention to detail make him the commercial photographer to watch. www.jedroot.com

86. Oliviero ToscaniItalian 1942-
Toscani created the Benetton brand image and has worked to include a political message in commercial images ever since.

87. Pierre et Gilles French 1950- & 1953
This French duo’s work, before the advent of Photoshop, took photomontage and retouching to new levels of camp perfection.

88. Robert Doisneau French 1912-1994
Doisneau went walking and took pictures every day of the everyday in his beloved Paris, France. The ultimate street photographer.

89. Joel Sternfeld American 1944-
Sternfeld’s use of a large format camera to create documentary images of seemingly ordinary landscapes is one of the most imitated fields of photography today. www.joelsternfeld.com

90. Richard Billingham British 1970-
Billingham burst onto the contemporary art photography scene with his college project of family images titled Ray’s a Laugh. His following success inspires all students today. www.tate.org.uk

91. Paul Strand American 1890-1976
Not only was Strand a photographic pioneer he also saw the connection between the still and moving image over his long career. www.metmuseum.org

92. Chris Killip British 1946-
Killip works photographing rural communities, the working class and the North East of England. He was one of the main figures in revitalising British reportage in the eighties. www.chriskillip.com

93. Tony Ray-Jones British 1941-1972
Ray Jones is another photographer’s photographer, despite his short life and minimal output he is regularly noted as an influence by photographers in all genres.

94. Helen Levitt American 1913-2009
Levitt only worked as a photographer for a short time over two specifically intense periods. The images she created then of children playing and the street life of New York are timeless. www.npr.org

95. Robert Capa Hungarian 1913-1954
Hard drinking and living, Capa not only helped found the Magnum agency, he also captured the most moving images of World War II.

96. George Hurrell American 1904-1992
Hurrell was the undoubted master of the Hollywood star portrait. Lighting, composition and printing all were perfect in his world. www.hurrellphotography.com

97. Jacques Henri Lartigue French 1894-1986
An amateur photographer who started as a young boy, Lartigue’s images of everyday aristocratic French life makes him the ultimate social photographer. www.lartigue.org

98. Bert Stern American 1929-
Stern is a great commercial photographer but it is for his contact images of Marilyn Monroe with ruffled hair, silk scarf and wild abandon that he makes the list. www.bertstern.com

99. Peter Beard American 1938-
With his love of Africa, lions, beautiful women and collage, Beard has created a unique body of work which inspires through its energy and passion. www.peterbeard.com

100. Rankin British 1966-
Controversial he may be, but with his media persona to the fore, his influence on young photographers, and public recognition, definitely earn him the final place in our 100. www.rankin.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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  1. There's some great people in here that's for sure but is this in some kind of order?!Is Martin Parr really above the likes of Bailey,Man Ray,Robert Frank,Weegee,Brassai,McCullin,Sherman,Capa etc??oh blimey i've just noticed Lartigue is only at number 97! It's a bit like saying Take That are more influential than The Stones....is James Nachtwey in there?I cannot find him.

    Comment made by: DarrenAndrews
    01.03.10 21:23:55

  2. Yes some of my personal influential photographers are on this list, but I have to say my list is much more diverse & colorful. It is amazing how limited your list of influence is, really 100 photographers all really from the same bucket except for a few, also what about Niepce & Daguerre?

    Comment made by: gdwightm
    12.04.10 00:15:55

  3. Good list, but there are some major omissions here, where are the great African American photographers like Gordon Parks, James Van der zee, Roy DeCarava?
    I am very SHOCKED not to see Gordon Parks listed. Very SAD actually.

    Comment made by: Rowe
    12.04.10 16:54:59

  4. where is ATGET??? Its no serious... i dont believe in this source

    Comment made by: andrepaiva
    14.04.10 19:34:34

  5. This is a good list, some great names are here, but the lack of some names, like Philippe Halsman, Dorothea Lange or Atget is unacceptable.

    Comment made by: Vernaglia
    10.12.11 13:31:00

  6. A real who's who of commercial photographers. I feel this article would be more interesting if we were told, who these photographers were influencing?

    Comment made by: s2art
    13.12.11 02:06:52

  7. No Nadar, no Bechers, no Feininger. Is this really a list of the most influential photographers?

    Comment made by: mittleresgrau
    13.12.11 10:34:41

  8. You've included Terry Richardson (really?), but leave out the likes of Margaret Bourke-White, Ernst Hass, David Douglas Duncan, Larry Burrows, Philippe Halsman, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, etc. Makes it kinda hard to reconcile your rating criteria...

    Comment made by: eliphoto
    14.12.11 20:24:06

  9. No Karsh? No McCurry? An interesting list but incomplete at best.

    Comment made by: shooter17
    22.12.11 00:07:55

  10. No Julius Shulman??? Actually, NO architectural photographers. What is with a this list?!? Architectural photographers shared the designs of post-WWII era architecture changing the way people lived. Society was hinged to Sunset Magazine from 40s-70s wanting their own home to mimic what they saw in print. It made societies from a urban society to a suburban society. Yeah, we associate the architecture to the architect... but a photographer made it speak to everyone. Some of these above photographers only i

    Comment made by: grungebob
    25.04.12 17:51:00

  11. Any chance of a list of the criteria you are using to justify personal preference?

    Comment made by: nimzo
    08.05.12 22:02:06

  12. Excuse me, Brassai was Hungarian, born as Gyula Hal?sz.

    Comment made by: davidf
    18.09.12 17:15:43

  13. Eve Arnold died in January.

    Comment made by: jreasterby
    18.09.12 21:35:44

  14. I had to write my local congressman when I saw Martin Schoeller had not been included in this list. Naughty, PP Magazine.

    Comment made by: Guess the Lighting
    28.09.12 19:44:43

  15. Rankin???? You've got to be joking!!!!

    Please, who comes up with this rubbish? You've left some of the greatest photographers ever off this rubbish list.

    Comment made by: Deee
    05.11.12 10:39:11

  16. The wonderful thing about any list is that it sparks debate. While I don't agree with all the choice or their order, it's nice to see that a list of the 100 greatest photographers is not nearly a large enough list.

    Comment made by: briansmith
    10.01.13 12:05:38

  17. I was going to complain at the lack of some great artists and their deep influence they had on society on both sides of the pond but the other 16 comments almost said it all. a few more to add are Riis, Gardner, Brady, O' Sullivan and on and on.

    Comment made by: mikeci
    09.07.13 05:11:53

  18. How can this 100 list not include Tichy, Wolfgang Tillmans and Ian Macdonald ?

    Perhaps move 3 out with less gravitas. :-)

    Comment made by: tinkertailorsoldierspy
    10.04.14 16:27:20

  19. Bob Gruen is missing from your list. I find this to be a glaring error in that Bob Gruen has documented the history of rock photography. He has taken many of the iconic images we now have. Shame on you for not putting him on the list.

    Comment made by: randicoleman
    11.11.14 16:38:50


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