(c) Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos. FRANCE. Hauts-de-Seine. Parc de Sceaux. 1987. - dog devil silhouette

Cheat Sheet: Masters of Photography

(c) Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos. FRANCE. Hauts-de-Seine. Parc de Sceaux. 1987. - dog devil silhouette
(c) Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos. FRANCE. Hauts-de-Seine. Parc de Sceaux. 1987.

We’ve all heard name-droppers at photo exhibitions, galleries, and other places. I’m going to give you a cheat-sheet of all the masters of photography you need to know:

  • Alfred Stieglitz: One of the original curators and promoters of photography as art.
  • Alec Soth: Famous for large-format color photographs, and his intimacy with his subjects.
  • Alex Webb: Probably the best street photographer working in color, layers, and depth. His best book is “The Suffering of Light” and “Istanbul”
  • Anders Petersen: Soulful, intimate, high-contrast black and white photos (inspired by Daido, and Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken). A personal favorite of mine.
  • Andre Kertesz: One of the great masters of photography who got discovered late in life. Older than Henri Cartier-Bresson.
  • Ansel Adams: The most famous landscape photographer. Famous for creating beautiful darkroom prints.
  • Araki: Mostly known for his controversial ‘bondage-style’ porn-esque photos of beautiful Japanese women. But probably the most prolific photographer to have lived, publishing several hundred photo books. Him and Daido are the two most famous Japanese photographers.
  • Blake Andrews: Prolific blogger, street photographer, and overall funny guy.
  • Bruce Davidson: Best body of work is ‘Subway’ (photographed the Subway of NYC in the 1980s, shooting color and flash). Probably one of the best color photographers to study.
  • Bruce Gilden: Known for up-close and personal 28mm photos, shot with a flash. In real life, he’s actually nicer than he seems.
  • Constantine Manos: Got recruited into Magnum by Henri Cartier-Bresson, first famous for his ‘Greek Portfolio’ (classic black and white), then transitioned into shooting color photos. Manos taught me.
  • Daido Moriyama: Gritty high-contrast black and white street photos of Tokyo, mostly Shinjuku. Was inspired by William Eggleston.
  • Dan Winters: Probably one of the best writers on photography, portrait photographers, and also very skilled at illustration. I highly recommend his book: “The Road to Seeing.”
  • David Alan Harvey: Another prolific living photographer, he also taught me at a Magnum workshop. Super cool down-to-earth guy, whose no-bullshit approach to life and photography is refreshing.
  • David Hurn: Wrote ‘On Being a Photographer’ which I consider to be one of the best, most practical books on photography. Also Magnum member.
  • Diane Arbus: Known for photographing outcasts of society, in a tender and loving way. I love her portraits, but unfortunately she committed suicide at a young age.
  • Dorothea Lange: Everything you’ve seen from the Great Depression is probably from her.
  • Elliott Erwitt: Funny, ironic, witty photographer. From the similar era as Cartier-Bresson.
  • Eugene Atget: Photographed urban landscapes of Paris, was discovered late in life. Classic photos.
  • Eugene Smith: The most intense photographer who ever lived, his work ethic was incredible. He sought perfection in photography, and pretty much got it.
  • Garry Winogrand: The most prolific street photographer to have lived, incredible work with layers, shooting close and head-on with 28mm lens. Hated being called a ‘street photographer.’
  • Helen Levitt: Intimate photos of mostly kids playing in the streets. Her color street photographs are amazing.
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Godfather of photography, street photography, and coined ‘the decisive moment’ (initially from a poem he read). Almost all contemporary photographers have been influenced by him in one way or another. Advised us not to crop our photos, to always think about composition, and retired photography after shooting 30 years.
  • Irving Penn: Classic portrait photographer.
  • Jacob Aue Sobol: Another great contemporary photographer, close friends of Anders Petersen, shoots very intimate black and white photos of individuals, couples (often having sex). His photos ooze with intimacy and soul.
  • Jeff Mermelstein: Intense street photographer from NYC, great color photographs, and great eye.
  • Joel Meyerowitz: One of the early color street photography pioneers, shot on the streets of NYC with Garry Winogrand.
  • Joel Sternfeld: Famous for large-format color photos (8×10) in America.
  • Josef Koudelka / Part 2: My top-3 favorite photographer, who shot ‘Gypsies’ and ‘Exiles’ (his two great bodies of work). Lived as a vagabond for his entire life, and has stayed true to himself for his entire life. Now currently does mostly panoramic landscape work.
  • Josh White: One of my best friends, who taught me everything I know about ‘Personal Photography.’
  • Lee Friedlander: Funny, wry humor — great self-portraits, urban landscapes, and was one of the big innovators in photography (alongside Garry Winogrand)
  • Mark Cohen: Innovator shooting close-photos with a flash, mostly 21mm, famous for decapitating body parts (in an interesting way)
  • Martin Parr: One of the most prolific photographers living, Alec Soth calls him the ‘Jay-Z’ of documentary photography. Has intense, social commentary through his photos — shoots color and with a flash.
  • Mary Ellen Mark: One of the best documentary photographers to have lived, great photography teacher, and believed that each photo should be a perfect image.
  • Rene Burri: Famous for his compositions, also recruited into Magnum by Cartier-Bresson.
  • Richard Avedon: The most soulful portrait photographer who lived. He was famous, rich, and prolific for his entire life. One of the pioneers shooting portraits with simple white backgrounds.
  • Richard Kalvar: Humorous candid black and white street photos.
  • Robert Capa: “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” (was his motto). Co-founded Magnum with Cartier-Bresson and Chim. Unfortunately died while photographing in battle, by stepping on a landmine.
  • Robert Frank: Photographed ‘The Americans’ — one of the favorite photography books by most modern street and documentary photographers.
  • Saul Leiter: Known for abstract color photos, he photographed beautiful scenes like a painter (he also painted).
  • Sergio Larrain: Mostly obscure photographer, who was the ultimate Zen photographer.
  • Sebastião Salgado: Photographed ‘Genesis’, ‘Workers’, and was a former economist turned photographer. Probably the best humanist photographer.
  • Shomei Tomatsu: Mysterious, surreal, Japanese photographer.
  • Stephen Shore: Famous for 8×10 large-format color photos (similar to Joel Sternfeld).
  • Todd Hido: Poetic contemporary photographer, combines lots of different formats in photography. Very intimate and lovely images.
  • Tony Ray-Jones: Unfortunately passed at a young age, greatly inspired Martin Parr and other British street photographers.
  • Trent Parke: Australia’s finest photographer, with the most hustle and drive out of any photographer I have witnessed. “Minutes to midnight” is his masterpiece.
  • Vivian Maier: Former nanny, but passionate photographer in her time-off. Was discovered by John Maloof, and has achieved great fame (after she died). Humanistic portraits of street people.
  • Walker Evans: One pioneer in the early days of photography, was also photography professor, and his best work was for his street photos and urban landscapes.
  • Weegee: Pioneer using a flash, he photographed crimes, and murder scenes. Probably one of the biggest inspirations for most living photographers (who shoot with a flash).
  • William Eggleston: Mostly mundane photos of ordinary things, photographed in a poetic way. He taught the world that color could be artful in photography, and that any subject (no matter how boring) could be interesting.
  • William Klein: The ultimate badass in photography; he didn’t give a fuck what others thought of him or his technique. Innovative with his use of blur, high-contrast, and grain in his photos. His “New York” book was the best.
  • Zoe Strauss: Amazing contemporary photographer, who gets close to her subjects, talks to them, builds connections with them, and photographs them. She inspired me by reminding me that building connections with your subject is more important than photographing them.

Learn more: 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography

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