Famous Photographers From The Past That You Should Know

Words by Scott Bourne - A Platypod Pro
Edited by Eryka Bagwell

Photo by J. Malcolm Greany [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As a serious photographer, whether you are aware of it or not, the great photographers of the past have influenced some part of your work. The photography you have seen before has likely had a subconscious impact on your photography. Even if you are not familiar with the names on this list, you have probably seen the work of these great photographers. Their images may have directly influenced you or influenced other photographers' works.

Photographs have the potential to live on past their makers, serving as a permanent reminder of someone else's memories. By studying the works of these heroes of the past, we can honor their work and move photography forward into the future with the knowledge we have gained.

While this list is not exhaustive, it provides a helpful starting point, especially for new photographers, who want to know who has had a lasting impact on the art form. Here are some photographers to consider studying, in no particular order.

Eliot Porter: A great nature photographer who was influenced by Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz.

Imogen Cunningham: A member of the famed Group f/64 and a master of everything from fine art nudes to industrial landscapes.

Paul Strand: Known for introducing modernism into photography and was helped by Alfred Steiglitz.

Edward Weston: The first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship and a master of still lives, landscapes, and nudes.

Dorothea Lange: A superb documentary photographer famous for her photojournalistic approach to documenting the Great Depression.

Henri-Cartier Bresson: The master of candid photography, also known as street photography, and the reason the term "street photography" exists.

Ansel Adams: Known for his influence on landscape photography and his work with the zone system, which became the basis for the first widespread use of the darkroom to manipulate the final result in print. He was the founder of Group f/64.

Alfred Stieglitz: An American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental in making photography an accepted art form.

Gordon Parks: A prominent U.S. documentary photojournalist in the 1940s through 1970s, particularly in issues of civil rights, poverty, and African Americans, and in glamour photography.

Shōmei Tōmatsu: Perhaps the most influential Japanese photographer of the post-war era, hailed as the stylistic mentor of artists such as Daido Moriyama, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Takuma Nakihara for his raw, grainy, and impressionistic style, which was a dramatic break with the quiet formalism that had defined earlier photography.

Other famous photographers who have had a lasting impact on photography include Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Cindy Sherman, and Annie Leibovitz. These photographers have influenced not only their contemporaries but also future generations of photographers, and their work continues to inspire and inform the art form today.

Spend some time studying the names on this list and their work. If you do, you'll find things to motivate and inspire you to follow in their footsteps.

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