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21 May
49 Most Influential Photographers in History

49 Most Influential Photographers in History

Who is the most influential photographer of all time? Which photographers have had the biggest impact on the world around them? There’s probably no absolute answer to these questions seeing as everyone will have their own views and opinions.

Well after hours of debating this subject long and hard, the team here at Picture Frames Express have produced this list of photographers we consider to be the most influential of all time. Of course, our list is by no means definitive, nor exhaustive. There’s sure to be a few incredible photographers we’ve missed out, and perhaps a few you think shouldn’t have made the top 49. But that’s the beauty of photography, everyone interprets and appreciates it in their own way, so enjoy!



1 – Ansel Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984)

Ansel Adams was an American photographer who specialised in the black and white photography of rural landscapes. He was an environmental activist and one of the pioneers of modern nature photography.



2 – Richard Avedon (15 May, 1923 – 1 October, 2004)

A master of portrait and fashion photography, Richard Avedon was renowned for his ability to capture raw emotion, evoking life into his subjects while retaining formality. Creating often controversial and provocative images, Avedon’s work helped redefine photography as an expressive art form.



3 – Eve Arnold (21 April, 1912 – 4 January, 2012)

Eve Arnold was a pioneer of photojournalism. She specialised in capturing natural shots of famous celebrities and is responsible for some of the most memorable photographs of Marilyn Monroe.



4 – Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971)

Diane Arbus work often focused on the unique characters amongst our society. Her images often had a disturbing element to them and have had a lasting legacy on urban street culture.



5 – David Bailey (2 January, 1938)

David Bailey is an English photographer who gained a reputation for his fashion photography in the ‘Swinging Sixties”. Some of his well-known subjects include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the Kray Twins.


6 – Irving Penn (June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009)

Many of the most iconic fashion photographs ever taken can be credited to Irving Penn. Working with clients such as Vogue and Clinique, his work has been published globally. Considered to be a technical master, Penn would utilise a variety of camera, printing processes and methods to capture his imagery.


7 – Henri Cartier-Bresson (22 August, 1908 – 3 August, 2004)

Henri Cartier is known for creating the timeless “The decisive moment” one of the most influential photography books ever published.


8 – W. Eugene Smith (December 30, 1918 – October 15, 1978)

With a belief that 90% of the image/work is done in the darkroom W. Eugene Smith is recognised as a pioneer for the use of photo essays “I am always torn between the attitude of a journalist, who is a recorder of facts, and the artist who is often necessarily at odds with the facts…” He often put his life on the line, on the front line capturing conflicts and war. He wanted to bring to life and document social issues.


9 – Helmut Newton (31 October, 1920 – 23 January, 2004)

Helmut Newton was a fashion photographer and his work published in mainstream publications such as Vogue and Playboy.


10 – Walker Evans (November 3, 1903 – April 10, 1975)

Walker’s unique ability to visualise a moment as though it were already in the past, capturing the raw emotions of his subjects and turning it into a poetic portrayal of the world around him allowed him to become one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.


By Edwin Locke, for the Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information / Office of Emergency Management / Resettlement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

11 – Guy Bourdin (2 December, 1928 – 29 March, 1991)

French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin is best known for his work in Vogue magazine in the ’50s. He images are known for their hyper-real colours and creative use of light and shadow.


12 – Cindy Sherman (January 19, 1954)

As well as being an accomplished photographer, Cindy Sherman is also a recognised film director. Normally using herself as the subject, Sherman uses her photography to highlight various issues.


13 – Nick Knight (24 November, 1958)

Challenging traditional thoughts of beauty, Nick Knight pushes technical and creative boundaries to make him one of the most sought after fashion and documentary photographers of today. A leader in innovation Nick launched SHOWstudio one of the first websites to use digital film as a medium for showing fashion.


14 – Robert Capa (22 October, 1913 – 25 May, 1954)

Famous for photographing some of the most brutal battles, Robert Capa was a war photographer and photojournalist, most notably covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II across Europe.His captures of the 1944 Normandy invasion are just some of his action photographs which uniquely portray the acts of violence in war in historic images of blur and dust.


15 – Andreas Gursky (15 January, 1955)

Andreas Gursky is a German photographer known for his large-format images. He goes to great lengths to get his shots, even being known to have climbed cranes and ride in helicopters.


16 – Edward Weston (March 24, 1886 – January 1, 1958)

Edward Weston is widely considered to be one of the most innovative photographers of our time. He composed several thousand perfectly printed photographs which have had a lasting influence on generations of photographers since.


17 – Steve McCurry (April 23, 1950)

An internationally known documentary photographer McCurry is most famously known for his work after being smuggled over the border into rebel-controlled Pakistan. He returned with reels of film hidden in his clothes containing the first images published internationally depicting the conflict there.


By Arupkamal (SteveMcCurry at KL MY by Ahmed Arup Kamal.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

18 – Elliott Erwitt (July 26, 1928)

An expert at capturing fascinating shots of everyday life, Erwitt was known for making the ‘normal’ seem ‘interesting’.


19 – Martin Parr (23 May, 1952)

A photojournalist and documentary photographer Martin Parr known and recognised in his indirect and innovative approach to social documentary. Seen as a ‘chronicler of our age’ he combines garish colours and unusual perspectives to produce his own form of propaganda.


20 – Robert Adams (January 21, 1928 – March 2, 1997)

Having photographed the landscape of America for more than 40 years Adams use of photography reflects the persevering beauty of nature against urban growth and his own love of natural landscapes.

21 – Juergen Teller (28 January, 1964)

Working in the fashion and music fields, Juergen Teller is a fine art photographer who pushes the belief that the commercial fashion pictures go side by side with his autobiographical un-commissioned pieces.


22 – Man Ray (August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976)

Spanning both the Dada and Surrealism movements Man Ray was a part of the artistic avant-garde. His photographic experiments included his pursuit to make ‘camera-less’ pictures which he called rayographs.


23 – Annie Leibovitz (2 October, 1949)

Annie Leibovitz is one of the great American photographers of our time. Whilst working at Rolling Stone she took some of the most well-known photographs of our generation. Renowned for her the bold colours and unorthodox poses in her photographs, her influence on the world of photography has been significant.


24 – André Kertész (2 July, 1894 – 28 September, 1985)

Born in Hungary in 1894, André Kertész was a photographer renowned for his contribution to photographic composition and the photo essay. By the end of his career, he was in internationally known photographer exhibiting his work in shows all around the world.


25 – Horst P (August 14, 1906 – November 18, 1999)

Horst P was a leading 20th-century fashion photographer known for his work with publications such as Vogue. Know for his avant-garde methods, he produced some of the most iconic fashion photos ever created.


26 – David LaChapelle (March 11, 1963)

David LaChapelle is an American commercial photographer who has photographed some of the biggest celebrities in recent decades. He amassed a large following through his work at Interview magazine alongside renowned artists Andy Warhol.


27 – Steven Meisel (June 5, 1954)

Steven Miesel is one of the greatest fashion photographers in the industry. Having produced the covers of Vogue Italia since 2008 and every Prada campaign since 2004. Drawn to the fashion industry, models and beauty at a young age his work and ability to reflect culture are thought to both define and depict fashion.


28 – William Eggleston (July 27, 1939)

A pioneer of colour photography, Egglestone had a skill of finding and capturing the beauty of mundane everyday things such as food cupboards, bathrooms; focusing in his words upon the ‘ugly stuff’ that others would overlook/think nothing of.


29 – Ralph Gibson (January 16, 1939)

an American art photographer Ralph Gibson is best known for his ability to turn the understated abstract into the dramatic. His photographs depict the energy and often erotic, and intimate images.


30 – Mary Ellen Mark (March 20, 1940 – May 25, 2015)

An American photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, was known for her photojournalism and has achieved worldwide visibility and many awards for her images which depict humanism, including many social issues.


31 – Peter Lindbergh (23 November 1944 – 3 September 2019)

Photographer and Film-maker Pete Lindbergh channels his influence of cinema into his photography. Not bound by the fashion or photography worlds characteristics his work has often been described as ‘love letters to women’ due to his work depictions of the contemporary woman reflecting freedom and independence.


32 – Stephen Shore (October 8, 1947)

A recognised pioneer of colour photography Stephen is known for his captures of everyday scenes and objects in the United States. In 1971 he was the first living photographer to hold a one-person exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


33 – Robert Mapplethorpe (November 4, 1946 – March 9, 1989)

Known for his provocative and of controversial images, Robert Mapplethorpe pushed the boundaries of what was considered photographic art in the 70s and 80s. “I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking.’ I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before…’


34 – Garry Winogrand (14 January, 1928 – 19 March, 1984)

Street photographer Garry Winogrand was famed for his unorthodox methods. Renowned for shooting a lot of photographs, it’s thought that he took well over a million in total.


35 – Don McCullin (9 October, 1935)

Photojournalist Don McCullin British known for capturing defining images in war zones such as Vietnam and Northern Ireland.


36 – Edward Steichen (March 27, 1879 – March 25, 1973)

Edward Steichen’s photography career spanned for well over half a century. He served as a photographer in both World Wars and his experiences helped shape his ever-evolving creativity.


37 – Paolo Roversi (25 September 1947)

With a skill to express elegance in intimate and striking portraits, Italian-born Paulo has become one of the most revered photographers in fashion today working with the likes of Vogue and Dior.


38 – William Klein (April 19, 1928)

Known for his unique approach to photographic techniques William Klein is a fashion photographer who employs odd angles and unique shading to achieve a unique look and feel to his images. His most notable works are a series of images showing New York as a dark place which he made into a book after no one would publish them.


39 – Arnold Newman (March 3, 1918 – June 6, 2006)

Known as the “Father of Environmental Portraiture” the legacy of American photographer Arnold Newman is significant. He is well known for some of the photographs he took of influential political figures.


40 – Saul Leiter (December 3, 1923 – November 26, 2013)

For Saul Leiter the camera allowed him to present an alternative way of seeing the world and interpreting reality; capturing in abstract forms and unique composition, something which set him apart from standard street photographers.


41 – Yousuf Karsh (December 23, 1908 – July 13, 2002)

Described as “one of the greatest portrait photographer of the 20th century” by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Youseff Karsh was a portrait photographer with an ability to bring a compassionate human view to his photos, allowing him to photograph some of the most celebrated personalities of his time.


42 – Doc Edgerton (April 6, 1903 – January 4, 1990)

Doc Edgerton’s is better known for his work as a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Electrical Engineering, but he was also an accomplished photographer capturing breathtaking photographs of fast-moving moments such as milk drops and golf swings.


43 – Nicéphore Niépce (7 March 1765 – 5 July 1833)

Nicéphore Niépce, born 1765 was a French inventor and credited as the first person to capture a permanent photograph. Using light-sensitive chemicals and a piece of metal he managed to capture the very first photograph in 1827.


44 – Steve Carty

Canon Canada’s first Brand Ambassador, Carty is a fashion and portrait photographer with an ability to produce iconic pictures reflecting attitude and an understated contemporary feel.


45 – Alfred Stieglitz (January 1, 1864 – July 13, 1946)

Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer who lived from 1864 to 1946. As well as being one of the great photographers of his time, he is also credited with championing photography as a respectable expression of art at the beginning of the 20th century. Whereas most photographers are known for their pictures, his lasting legacy is the impact his passion for photography had on the art world.


46 – Edward Curtis (February 19, 1868 – October 19, 1952)

Edward Curtis was known for his sepia-toned photographs capturing the lives and traditions Native Americans. At the time of his death, his work was largely unknown, however, interest in it emerged in the ’70s after his work was presented at several exhibitions.


47 – Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965)

A documentary photographer who spent much of her time photographing migrant workers;the images of the ‘proud and destitute’ she later became known for, Dorothea’s most famous and iconic capture ‘Migrant Mother’ is seen by many as the image of hardship, pain but also resilience felt by Americans during the Great Depression & is now hanging in the Library of Congress .


Moondigger at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

48 – Julius Shulman (October 10, 1910 – July 15, 2009)

Regarded as one of the most important architectural photographers in history Shulman is best known for his photograph of the Stahl House transformed commercial architectural photography to a fine art form.


49 – Bruce Gilden (16 October 1946)

Bruce Gilden is an influential street photographer known for his unique style of getting up-close images of strangers in amongst the crowds of New York. Some of Gilden’s most well know work are his photographs documenting the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.


Do you agree with our top 49 photographers? Feel free to comment with any amendments that you personally would make to the list, we’d love to hear what you have to say! Why not share with your friends and see what they think? Who do they think would make the top spot?

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