Choosing five individuals to be the “most influential” of anything can be a troubling task. There are countless genres and subcategories of photography, from portraiture to street photography. How can you pick five and decide they are more important than all the others?
These five individuals have one common characteristic; they have all left a lasting impression on their craft, which has affected the world of photography to this day. Whether they revolutionized how pictures are taken or impacted the philosophies that surround photography, they each deserve to be noted for the lasting impressions they made on their passion.
5. David Bailey
Unlike the other photographers mentioned in this article, David Bailey has one defining characteristic that should be noted—he’s still alive. Based in Leytonstone, England, the 79-year-old photographer specializes in fashion photography and portraiture.
Bailey asserts that his first love was natural history, which led him to the vast world of photography. He started as a photographic assistant at the John French studio until he became a contracted photographer for John Cole. His images covered English Vogue magazines across the country, along with other platforms touched by his freelance work.
David Bailey helped capture the “Swinging London” feel of the 1960’s; a culture of fashion and celebrity chic. He is known as one of the first celebrity photographers, having socialized with actors, musicians, and even royalty. Get to know his work by clicking here.
4. Diane Arbus
Arbus is known for her unafraid depictions of marginalized people, including dwarfs, giants, transgender individuals, nudists, and circus performers. Quite simply, Arbus aimed to photograph people who the public viewed as ugly or surreal. Her work has been described as consisting of “formal manipulation characterized by blatant sensationalism,” which coincides with the raw and often shocking nature of her images.
One year after she committed suicide in 1972 at the tragic age of 48, Arbus became one of the first American photographers to have her work displayed at the Venice Biennale. Millions of art enthusiasts traveled the world to witness her fearless perspective on the taboo individuals of our society.
Take a look at one of her most popular exhibitions, “In the Beginning.”
3. Eve Arnold
Known as a pioneer of photojournalism, Arnold was fascinated by capturing natural shots of famous celebrities. She is known for some of the most memorable photographs of Marilyn Monroe, thanks to her unique artistic perspective of seeing individuals “simply as people in front of her lens.” Arnold was also known for abstaining from flash, relying instead on natural light. “By the time you set up lights the image is gone,” she was famous for saying.
Arnold, pictured in the photo above, has also left a lasting impact on street photography. She opened the eyes of millions through her photos of the poor and dispossessed. Her subjects ranged from migrant workers and civil rights protesters to disabled Vietnam war veterans and Mongolian herdsmen. Arnold is also noted for her photos of Queen Elizabeth II, Malcolm X, Joan Crawford, and others. Click here to learn more about her various photographic ventures.
2. Richard Avedon
Like David Bailey, Richard Avedon was a fashion and portrait photographer known his unique depictions of his subjects. An obituary published in The New York Times noted that “his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty, and culture for the last half- century.” This statement holds true, considering his honest exhibition “In the American West” and his work published in Vogue.
Avedon was especially known for the minimalist nature of his portraits. He was able to illustrate the raw characteristics of his subjects without showing backgrounds or human interaction. Famous people he photographed include The Beatles, James Baldwin, Andy Warhol, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
1. Ansel Adams
Let’s be real—you probably knew the number one photographer of this article before you even started. Ansel Adams, pictures above with his famous camera setup, was an American photographer who specialized in black-and-white images of rural landscapes.
Adams was a fantastic example of a photographer who raised awareness about important issues through his work, which speaks for his support of the environment. Especially during the twenties and thirties when the public paid little attention to environmental wellbeing, it was revolutionary for a pioneer of nature photography to speak so powerfully in support of conservation.
Further into his career, Adams branched into more experimental forms of photography, adding detailed close-ups and abandoned factories to his portfolio. His work can be found in museums across the world, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Smithsonian Institution.
Found out more about this legendary photographer on his gallery website found here.