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27 Most Famous Photographers You Need to Know (2023 Update)

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We’ve put together a list of some of the most famous photographers this world has ever seen. Most of the photographers on our list have left our mortal plane. Yet their images, messages, and creativity live on. We can all take something away from their careers and work.

When starting out as a photographer, you may find yourself in a creative rut. It can be difficult to find inspiration for photography themes. This is where the masters of photography can help you.

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27 Most Famous Photographers You Need to Know

Here are the 27 famous photographers we wanted to highlight. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

1. Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman is an American conceptual artist. She is one of the most influential artists in the modern age of photography. This makes sense… especially when she has two images on the list of “The 10 Most Expensive Photographs in the World.”

Her photography explores contemporary identity and the nature of representation. These are drawn from the unlimited supply of images… from TV, magazines, the internet, and art history!

She places herself in her own work, using a range of disguises and personas. They were disturbing, distasteful, and sometimes amusing. Besides being a photographer? She’s also a model, hairdresser, stylist, and makeup artist.

A Cindy Sherman photograph of a female model lying on the floor

2. Robert Frank

There was never a more prolific photographer than Robert Frank. From 1941, he worked as a commercial photographer in Zurich, Basel, and Geneva.

In 1947, he found a job as a fashion photographer in the US. He used a 35mm Leica that was unconventional at the time. Between 1950 and 1959, he turned his attention to street photography and photojournalism.

This is when he became most famous. The Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to travel the country. And that resulted in his most famous work—The Americans (pictured below).

He worked closely with Walker Evans. And Robert Frank became one of the world’s most famous street photographers. He completed his visuals with text, written straight onto the negatives and prints.

3. Eliot Porter

Eliot Furness Porter was an American photographer famous for his colorful nature photos. He started to photograph birds and landscapes with a Kodak box camera as a child.

Porter got a Leica camera in 1930. In 1933, he was inspired by the photographs of Ansel Adams. And Ansel Adams encouraged him to work with a large-format camera.

Porter did so after meeting Alfred Stieglitz. And Stieglitz exhibited Porter’s work at an art gallery in New York City called An American Place in 1939.

Eliot Porter breathtaking landscape shot of rocks surrounded by autumn colored trees

4. Imogen Cunningham

Imogen Cunningham was a famous photographer from the US. She is known for her botanical photography, industrial landscapes, and nudes. Cunningham was also a member of the California-based Group f/64.

Cunningham’s early work consisted of soft focus and blurred imagery. These gave mystery to her photographed figures. She began experimenting with sharper, crisper images. And Cunningham began to create a style known as sharp-focus photography.

Imogen Cunningham photo of three female dancers in mid air

5. Frans Lanting

Frans Lanting is a Dutch photographer specializing in wildlife photography. He operates a studio, gallery, and stock photography services in Santa Cruz, California.

Lanting works in many different parts of the world. Locations include the Amazon basin, Africa, and Antarctica. His famous photographs regularly appear in National Geographic, where he served as photographer-in-residence.

Frans Lanting stunning shot of a herd of elephants gathered around water. The pink sky and the herd are reflected in the water below.

6. Paul Strand

Paul Strand was an American photographer. He helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century. His diverse work spanned six decades.

Strand covered many genres and subjects throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa. And Alfred Steiglitz influenced his modernistic approach.

Strand learned how to capture urban bustle, formal abstractions, and street portraits. He even worked with renowned documentary photographer Lewis Hine.

Paul Strand black and white photo of woman on a street

7. Weegee

Weegee was born Arthur Fellig. He was a famous photographer and photojournalist. His black-and-white street photography made him well-known.

Weegee worked in Manhattan as a press photographer during the 1930s and 1940s. That’s where he developed his signature style.

He followed the city’s emergency services and documented their activity. Much of his work depicted uncensored and realistic scenes. These included urban life, crime, injury, and death.

Weegee photo of a crowd of people looking at a crime scene, with a shop mannequin placed on the ground

8. Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon was a fashion and portrait photographer from the US. His fashion and portrait photographs have helped define America’s image for the last half-century… its style, beauty, and culture.

He started as a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. That helped him fund his studio, starting in 1946. There, he produced images for Vogue and Life magazines.

Avedon was always interested in portraiture… how it captures the personality and soul of its subject. He became more and more famous. And he started to photograph many notable people in his studio. He did this with an 8 x 10 large-format camera.

Richard Avedon portrait of Paul McCartney and Jean Shrimpton

9. Don McCullin

Sir Donald McCullin is a British photojournalist. He is well known for his war photography and images of urban strife. He is a photojournalist without equal. He has documented the poverty of London’s East End, and the horrors of wars in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

McCullin’s career spans over six decades. He specializes in examining the underbelly of society. McCullin presents photographs that depict the unemployed, downtrodden, and impoverished. But he also creates beautiful still lifes, soulful portraits, and moving landscapes.

Gripping war photography portrait of grieving people by Don McCullin, famous photographers and their work.

10. Edward Weston

Edward Henry Weston was an influential American photographer of the 20th century. His career lasted for at least 40 years. Weston’s work is very diverse and innovative. He has photographed landscapes, nudes, portraits, and still lifes.

He spent part of his career capturing trees and rocks in California. Then he started to focus on portraits. In 1937, Weston was the first photographer to get a Guggenheim Fellowship. Using his 8 x 10 large-format camera, he produced almost 1400 negatives over the years.

Edward Western black and white portrait of a twisted pepper

11. Man Ray

Man Ray was an American visual artist. He spent most of his career in France. Ray contributed to the Dada and Surrealist movements. And he considered himself a painter.

But he was best known for his fashion and portrait photography. Man Ray was also famous for his photograms. He called them “rayographs,” referring to himself.

Man Ray close up of a womans eyes with round teardrops on her face - famous photographers

12. David Bailey

David Royston Bailey is an English portrait and fashion photographer. He was determined to become a photographer, buying his first camera in 1957. That Rolleiflex soon became a Canon rangefinder.

He started off assisting David Ollins, and then John French. But his poor school attendance stopped his dream of going to the London School of Fashion. Bailey helped create and photograph the “swinging sixties.” It was a culture of fashion and celebrity chic.

David Bailey black and white portrait of Kate Moss

13. David LaChapelle

David LaChapelle is an American commercial and fine art photographer. His photography references art history and religious scenes. And his work often conveys social messages.

His photographic style is “meticulously created in a high-gloss, color-popping, hyper-realistic style.” And it is considered “kitsch pop surrealism.” Seeing his iconic style, it is no surprise that a writer called him the “Fellini of photography.”

LaChapelle has worked for several international publications. His work has ended up in commercial galleries and institutions around the world.

David LaChapelle hype realistic shot of a flooded church

14. Anne Geddes

Anne Geddes is an Australian-born photographer. But she currently lives and works in New York. She taught herself photography and became a professional when she was 30 years old. Her newborn baby pictures made her a world-famous photographer.

She has published books in 83 countries and has sold more than 18 million copies. In 1997, Cedco Publishing sold more than 1.8 million calendars and datebooks of her work.

Her debut book, Down in the Garden, reached the New York Times Bestseller List. Anne also created a philanthropic program. It raises awareness for child neglect and abuse.

Anne Geddes black and white portrait of a chubby baby posed beside a puppy

15. Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist. Her early work focused on photographing the social elite in a studio setting. Later, Lange’s work shifted direction. And she started to take documentary photographs.

She focused on the consequences of the Great Depression. And she is best known for her work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange has greatly influenced the development of documentary photography up to today.

Dorothea Lange famous photo of men outside a shop front during the Great Depression era

16. Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau was a French photographer. He was a master of humanist photography. And he was influenced by Atget, Kertész, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

In the 1930s, Doisneau captured the streets of Paris.  He was famous for his modest, playful, and iconic images. Alongside Henri Cartier-Bresson, he was a pioneer of photojournalism.

His photographs make you stare for a long time because of their unique atmosphere. Doisneau’s words describe his art perfectly.”The marvels of daily life are so exciting… no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”

Robert Doisneau humourous street poto of a littel dog with wheels supporting his hind legs, beside two women chatting outside a shop front - famous photographers

17. Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry is an American photographer and photojournalist. His most famous photograph is the Afghan Girl. The picture of the green-eyed girl was on the cover of National Geographic magazine.

McCurry has completed several assignments for National Geographic. And he has been a member of Magnum since 1986.

McCurry has also received several awards:

  • Magazine Photographer of the Year
  • The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal
  • Two first-place prizes in the World Press Photo contest (1985 and 1992)

Steve McCurry portrait of a child painted with red face paint against a green wall - famous photographers work

18. Mario Testino

Mario Eduardo Testino Silva is a fashion and portrait photographer from Peru. His work found its way into magazines such as Vogue, V Magazine, Vanity Fair, and GQ. He has also taken pictures for brands such as Gucci, Chanel, and Estée Lauder.

Testino has also worked as a creative director and guest editor. He is also an art collector, museum founder, collaborator, and entrepreneur. The Observer described him this way… as “the world’s most prolific magazine and fashion trade photographer.”

Mario Testino vogue photo shoot of a female model standing on a balcony beside a crocodile

19. André Kertész

André Kertész was a Hungarian photographer. He created avant-garde photographic compositions. In the early years of his career? His unorthodox camera angles and style produced very powerful street photography.

Kertész never felt that he was recognized enough during his life. But today, many consider him one of the most significant figures of photojournalism.

Andre Kertesz photo of a man standing in front of at a broken park bench

20. Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky is a German photographer. He also works as a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Germany. Gursky is famous for his large-format architecture and landscape photographs. He often uses an elevated point of view.

Before the 1990s, he did not change his images digitally. Now, he relies on digital manipulation. It helps him to create his style of straightforward, enigmatic, and deadpan photography.

Andreas Gurskys chaotic high point of view shot of the busy interior of a working environment

21. Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe was an American photographer. He was known for his approach to controversial subject matters. His highly stylized black-and-white images depict celebrity portraits and male and female nudes.

He also covered self-portraits and still-life images of flowers. But his most controversial work is about the underground BDSM scene. He dcoumented this in the late 1960s and early 1970s in New York City.

Robert Mapplethorpe close up of a foot in a black stiletto - famous photographers and their work

22. Henri-Cartier Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French humanist photographer. He is referred to as the master of candid photography. He was an early user of 35mm film, where most others used large or medium format cameras.

His view on photography produced a book, describing the decisive moment. When “…elements of people in a real-life scene spontaneously and briefly come together in perfect resonance.”

This incredible photographer was a pioneer in street photography. And he captured powerful moments.

23. Annie Leibovitz

Anna-Lou “Annie” Leibovitz is a portrait photographer from the US. She became the first woman with an exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. And her work has been featured on many album covers and in magazines.

She photographed John Lennon on the day of his assassination. And when she says she wants to photograph someone, what it really means is that she’d like to know them. Her unique style sets her images apart from every other portrait photographer.

Annie Leibovitz portrait of a girl in a red evening dress standing on a dock with sea and empire state building behind her

24. Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado Júnior is a social documentary photographer and photojournalist. He is from Brazil. And he has traveled in over 120 countries thanks to his photography assignments. His work appeared in countless press publications and books.

Salgado is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He documents the powerless and the poor. And he also takes nature photography and tries to find the beauty in everything. Salgado has received many awards and honors:

  • The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant (1982)
  • Foreign Honorary Membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1992)
  • The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in 1993

Sebastião Salgado impressive high angle shot of a valley and hundreds of workers - famous photographers

25. Brassaï

Brassaï was a Hungarian-French photographer who gained international fame in the 20th century. He was among the Hungarian artists who flourished in Paris between the World Wars.

His black and white street photography is both descriptive and even humorous. The streets were his canvas. And he found himself wandering through late at night. He was a master of photography composition.  He learned this during his time studying painting and sculpture.

Brassaï black and white photo of the inside of a train station - most famous photographers ever

26. Ansel Adams

Ansel Easton Adams was an American photographer and environmentalist. He often used a large format camera. And he is best known for his black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West… especially Yosemite National Park.

Ansel and a colleague developed the “zone system.” It was a proper way to expose an image and help adjust the contrast of the final print. He was an original founder of Group f/64. He created the group with fellow photographers Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston.

Ansel Adams black-and-white landscape photograph of the American West landscape - most famous photographers

27. Robert Capa

Robert Capa was an American-Hungarian war photographer and photojournalist. He was also the companion and professional partner of photographer Gerda Taro. Capa was a nickname (meaning shark in Hungarian). This was due to his up-close and personal style.

He was arguably the greatest combat and adventure photographer in history. Capa’s most notable work is about the Spanish Civil War. He was present with the first wave of soldiers during the D-Day landing in World War II. Only a few of his images survived.

Famous photographer Robert Capa image of a group of women crying and mourning

Conclusion

We hope you’ve been inspired by our list of famous photographers. Perhaps they inspire you to try out a new photography style. Try our Wow Factor Photography course to learn how to take breathtaking images!

Masters of Photography’s Steve McCurry
Masters of Photography's Steve McCurry Course
Unlock the secrets of iconic photography with this course from one of the world’s most famous photographers.
Buy from Masters of Photography
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