50 MASTERS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Compiled by Mason Resnick
A great photographer told us that the secret to becoming a great photographer is to surround yourself with the best photography available. We like to think that you don't need to become a great photographer to appreciate great photography. Here is a guide to some of the best photographers--and their books.
We've identified over 50 masters of the medium and offer a brief guide to their work here. We have also linked to all of their titles that are currently available. These books are available for purchase on-line! Thanks to our partnership with Book Stacks Unlimited, almost every book here is available at a 20% to 40% discount. Join the Book Stacks Frequent Buyers' Club for even deeper discounts.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing, but will hopefully wet your appetite. In the words of Garry Winogrand, "The more you know, the more you need to know". See our references for a listing of some of the best sources of information about photographers.
Be sure to bookmark this page for future reference, and be sure to visit the Black & White World Photo Bookstore. Your comments and suggestions are welcome!
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in more or less alphabetical order:
One of the most widely-known photographers, Adams was a conservationist and an artist with a camera. His photos of Yosemite, the Southwestern US and portraits are equalled only by the techniques that he pioneered.
Her controversial portraiture looked beyond the superficial and into her subjects often troubled souls. But her magazine work show she could have a split personality.
His up close, show-every-hair-follicle approach to portraiture can be jarring, but his ability to render both his and his sitters' personalities in each image he creates is uncanny.
An innovative, influential fashion photographer.
Photographer of all things Tibetan, including the Dalai Lama.
One of the original Life magazine staff photographers, Bourke-White was a pioneer in both photojournalism and womens' work roles. Her images of World War II--especially the liberation of concentration camps--were deceptively simple. Her images would often be the perfect combination of fact and beauty.
His portraits and Paris street photos are touching and perceptive.
The father of Photo Reportage and co-founder of the legendary Magnum photo agency, "HC-B" has influenced generations of photojournalists, documentary photographers and street photographers. Influenced and inspired by classical and impressionist art and freed by the portability of the Leica, HC-B changed the way we look at the world around us.
The founder of the Talking Heads points his camera at the kind of bizarre incongruities you could write a song about.
Cunningham's carreer spanned the first three quarters of the 20th century photographed many of her subjects draped in exotic clothes in images with moral themes and tableaux representing works of poets. Later nudes were shocking for their time, but rather tame now.
Curtis built an illustrius carreer documenting Native Americans in the 1900s. The images resonate 100 years later.
A street photographer whose decisive moments are imbued with warmth, feeling and wit, Diosneau's work reveals the fragile moments of urban existance.
A bullet through an apple. A droplet of milk that looks like a crown. A punctured balloon in mid-explosion. These are just a few of the famous images by "Doc" Edgerton, the pioneer of high-speed photography.
A perceptive street photographer with a sharp sense of humor, a sensitivity to the human condition, and an affinity for dogs. It is almost impossible to be depressed after looking at his work!
Frank's The Americans is a seminal development in the history of photography. He cris-crossed the US in the mid-50's and produced a collection of subjective images that showed the dark side of the nation that was supposedly in the midst of a socio-economic boom. To quote Jack Kerouack speaking directly to Robert Frank in the intro: "You Got Eyes."
16 Walker Evans Quintisential American photography from the first half of the 20th century. Evans influenced a generation with his forceful images of a lonely country.
The ultimate children's photographer. Her colorful, whimsical images leave you wondering how she got those infants to pose like that.
Gibson's high-contrast, minimalist black and white compositions have influenced a generation of photographers. By isolating the essential elements of a scene, his pictures show a style that is unique and immediately recognizable.
By championing the cause of poor immigrants, child laborers and other downtrodden folks through his powerfully straightforward photos, Lewis Hine showed us how the "Other Half" lived. His passionate photographs enlightened the world and brought about legislation that has protected millions since his work appeared in the early 20th century.
Some photographers have been described as poets with a camera. Ginsberg was the real thing.
During Hollywood's Golden Era, publicity photos had the power to make or break stars. George Hurrell, who perfected the "glamour" portrait, was the most sought after glamour photographer by the big names and the wanna-be's.
Kertesz used the camera to transform the chaos of the street into lyrical scenes. A brilliant, influential teacher and artist.
His brief involvement with photography yielded an influential body of work that has been called confrontational and immediate. They seem to be a furious protest against the establishment. Uncompromising and bold, the images are mostly street photos that stare when others would avert their gaze. He almost dares you to look at them.
A protege of Carter-Bresson, the first printing of Koudelka's book about Gypsies is a collector's item. Koudelka's documentary photos highlight the dignity of Eastern Europe's Gypsies, despite their often squalid living conditions.
A rising star on the celebrity portrait scene, Lachapelle's photos of Drew Barrymore, Jim Carrey, k.d. lang and the Beastie Boys has earned him accolades from American Photo magazine and others. His first book is a showcase of his impressive talents.
Best known for her famous photos of the Depression, including Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, Lange was active from the 1920s to the early 1960s and was one of the most influential photographers in American history.
One of today's most influential and admired artists, renowned for her vivid and distinctive style, Annie Leibovitz is an American original and a master of self-promotion. Her portraits of Bruce Springsteen, Jody Foster, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Greg Louganis, Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Lennon and more combine a keen eye with a quick wit.
His sometimes graphic homo-erotic photos challenged the established morality of the times, but his flower photos were considerably less controversial works that showed a subtle genious unencumbered by the baggage of his more infamous work. His Flowers collection, photos taken as he was dying of AIDS, is a symbolic look at life, death and sensuality.
Joel Meyerowitz is a master of the color image. His exquisitely printed collections include his lyrical landscapes and detailed portraiture that share an autobiographical feel, and a strong sense of place.
Misrach's technically perfect images portray American landscapes that have seen the heavy hand of developers, the military and polluters. The serene, understated approach Misrach often employs lies in stark contrast to the ecological damage his work depicts.
A member of the avante-garde Bauhaus movement, this artist/photographer/ theoretician's images anticipate the deconstructivist and post-modernist art movements of toady.
His early work showed a remarkable mastery of large format photography in situations where one would expect to see 35mm cameras; his portrait work includes a series on four sisters taken over a 15-year period and images of people with AIDS.
A Russian photographer whose strong graphic work was rarely seen outside the Soviet Union until after the Iron Curtain was torn down.
This landscape photographer's images of American national parks and the southwest celebrate the country's primal beauty through magical patterns of light and form.
From big nudes to portraits of Elizabeth Taylor and Salvador Dali, Newton has been on the cutting edge of fashion and glamour.
From Madonna to Jack Nicholson to William Burroughs, Herb Ritts has photographed the most famours--and notorious--faces of our time. His Notorious collection showcases his best celebrity shots, while Africa offers a bold departure: photos of the people and landscape of the African continent that will be a revalation to his fans.
Master nature photographer and teacher Galen Rowell's work presents the splendor of the world's natural beauty. As a columnist for Outdoor Photographer, Rowell has produced a prolific output of writing and images that will help a new generation of photographers to create the kind of interperative, adventure-filled images that Rowell is famous for.
A photojournalist in the best sense of the word, Sebasiao Salgado is fascinated with people who work hard in all parts of the world. From landless workers trying to claim property for themselves in Brazil to Oil workers putting out fires in Kuwait, Salgado's lens captures the beauty in his subjects' gritty reality.
A consumate craftsman and teacher, John Sexton offers tactile fine black and white nature imagery that utilizes the Zone System and large format for crisp, beautiful work. Sexton focuses the Desert Southwest US, using creative printing techniques to create uniquely expressive results. Sexton runs numerous workshops to share his knowledge with up-and-coming photographers.
Sherman uses photography as a tool to manipulate images of women that have been spawned by popular culture, with herself as the leading character in most of the images she creates.
A premier master of photojournalism, Smith passionately believed in the integrity of his subjects and the photographs that portrayed them. From his staged "Walk to Paradise Garden" to his graphic images of World War II and damning photos of the human tragedy brought on by industrial pollution at Minamata, Smith produced some of the most memorable images of his day.
As the curator of the photo collection for the New York Museum of Modern Art, Steichen was the man behind The Family Of Man, a late 1950's photo exhibition and recently-republished book that was a watershed in the history of photography because it gave photography mass appeal as an expressive, fine art. His curatorship brought about a grand era for "Concerned" photography.
One of the great art-world arbiters of the 20th century, Stieglitz gained recognition for photography as a fine art and introduced the European avant-garde to America. A leader in the controversial Pictorialist movement, he offered a mix of literal and interperative images. He moved in a brilliant circle of artists and intellectuals and was the husband of Georgia O'Keeffe.
A white picket fence. A poor Adirondac family. Paul Strand's pure vision and uncompromising technique gained him international accolades as a master of American photography, especially in the 1950s. His black and white photos are exquisite and memorable.
Before there was Photoshop, there was Uelsmann. His enigmatic, surrealist collection darkroom combinations defy categorization. It is their mystery that has stumped critics and kept his fans coming back for more.
A crime news photographer in the 30s and 40s in New York, Weegee is possibly the most well known street photographer. Crude and direct, his photos have an immediacy and impact that affect the viewer to this day. His later work, distorted portraits that he called "photo charicatures", have a similar in-your-face quality.
A man and his dogs: Wegman, who started out as a painter, is best known for photographs of his dogs. Man Ray, then Fay Ray and her pups have posed for Wegman in a variety of often humorous and very human-like settings. His photographs are a tribute to the ultimate partnership between a man and his dogs.
Weston's immaculately constructed images imbue forms of common objects with a sensuality that transcends the subject. Sharp, detailed and rich in tonality, his closeups, nudes and nature photographs brought the power of photography as an objective tool of observation to new heights. You'll never look at a pepper quite the same way again.
A teacher as well as a photographer, Minor White crafted works of beauty that were also explorations of his inner self. His best known work was made of the natural wonders in the American West. He experimented with alternative processes, non-narrative sequences and techniques that would stretch the bounds of photography.
Few living photographers are as consistently controversial and provocative as Joel-Peter Witkin, whose work elicits hostility and admiration in equal measure. Shocking and compelling, the photographs in this retrospective collection reach to the outer limits of human nature. Voted least likely to be invited to photograph childrens' birthday parties by Modern Photography in 1989.
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54 Master Photographers of 1960-1979 Written in Japan for a mostly native audience, this book offers excellent reproductions and generous samples from a select group of great photographers (although some may not be known outside of Japan). (Out of print)
American Images: Photography 1945-1980 (Peter Turner, Ed.) Based on an exhibition, this book surveys over 80 important American photographers, from Ansel Adams to Garry Winogrand. (Out of print)
Contemporary Photographers (St. Johns Press) This 1100-page volume profiles hundreds of photographers, including bios written by prominent critics, bibliographies, exhibitions and more. Some sample photos, but that's not the book's main purpose and reproduction is mediocre. Hard to find must-have reference. (Out of print)
Masters of Photography (Beaumont & Nancy Newhall) A classic overview of photography, written in 1958 by a husband-wife curatorial team. (Out of print)