Take A Picture, It’ll Last Longer: The Photography Lists

After making lists of best paintings and sculptures, and best architecture, the logical next list was best photography.  But making meta-lists of the best photographs and best photographers of all time proved to be quite a challenge.  The problem, from a listers’ standpoint, was that the art of photography is splintered into a number of styles or genres, which exist somewhat independently of one another.  Photojournalists have the Pulitzer Prize and the World Press Photo awards and most lists of “best photos” focus on their work (Robert Capa’s Dying Loyalist Soldier being the classic example).  Then there are the historians, who focus on firsts – first true photo, first self-portrait, first color photo, etc.  Street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Helen Levitt are often lumped in with photojournalists, but are quite distinct.  There are landscape photographers, nature photographers and wildlife photographers, although often these categories overlap.  Portrait photography and fashion photography, while distinct, may also overlap.  Fashion photography is also a sub-genre of commercial photography in that both are trying to sell something (other than prints of the photo – in that sense all professional photography is commercial).  Finally, there is art, or fine art photography.  Many of the photographs in this genre overlap with one or more of the other genres, but there are some, like Man Ray’s Rayographs or Jeff Wall’s tableaux, that are unique.  Because I wanted to make a list that covered as many categories of photography as possible, I had to look for the best photos by looking beyond lists to try and determine which photographs were the most highly regarded.

The result, I am glad to say, is a ‘best photography’ list that includes fine art photography, photojournalism, street photography, nature, landscape and wildlife photography, portrait photography, fashion photography and sports photography.  Nearly every renowned photographer is represented, as are many familiar images.  But there will also be names most do not recognize and photos you’ve never seen before.

In this post, I’ve included two lists of ‘best photographers’ (see below).  The two big photography lists can be found here:
Best Photography of All Time: Part I – 1826-1945
Best Photography of All Time; Part II – 1946-2011

Here are two lists of best photographers that I compiled from a number of different lists.  This first is the top dozen photographers and the second is a longer list, organized chronologically. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of lists containing the photographer’s name.

Top Photographers of All Time
1. Henri Cartier-Bresson (France; 1908-2004)
2. Annie Leibovitz (US; 1949- )
3. Ansel Adams (US; 1902-1984)
4. Dorothea Lange (US; 1895-1965)
5. Yousuf Karsh (Armenia/Canada; 1908-2002)
6. Robert Capa (Hungary; 1913-1954)
7. Irving Penn (US; 1917- 2009)
8. Cecil Beaton (UK; 1904-1980)
9. Diane Arbus (US; 1923-1971)
10. Richard Avedon (US; 1923-2004)
11. Robert Frank (Switzerland/US; 1924- )
12. Steve McCurry (US; 1950- )

Best Photographers of All Time: Chronological
Julia Margaret Cameron (UK; 1815-1879) (4)
Roger Fenton (UK; 1819-1869) (3)
Alfred Stieglitz (US; 1864-1946) (6)
August Sander (Germany; 1876-1964) (3)
Edward Steichen (Luxembourg/US; 1879-1973) (4)
Edward Weston (US; 1886-1958) (5)
Man Ray (US/France; 1890-1976) (4)
Paul Strand (US; 1890-1976) (3)
Andre Kertész (Hungary/France/US; 1894-1985) (5)
Dorothea Lange (US; 1895-1965) (9)
Brassaï (Hungary/France; 1899-1984) (5)
Ansel Adams (US; 1902-1984) (10)
Walker Evans (US; 1903-1975) (5)
Cecil Beaton (UK; 1904-1980) (7)
Philippe Halsman (Latvia/US; 1906-1979) (4)
Horst P. Horst (Germany/US; 1906-1999) (4)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (France; 1908-2004) (12)
Yousuf Karsh (Armenia/Canada; 1908-2002) (8)
Robert Doisneau (France; 1912-1994) (5)
Eve Arnold (US; 1912-2012) (4)
Robert Capa (Hungary; 1913-1954) (8)
Helen Levitt (US; 1913-2009) (3)
Irving Penn (US; 1917- 2009) (8)
W. Eugene Smith (US; 1918-1978) (5)
Helmut Newton (Germany/Australia/UK/France/US; 1920-2004) (5)
Diane Arbus (US; 1923-1971) (7)
Richard Avedon (US; 1923-2004) (7)
Robert Frank (Switzerland/US; 1924- ) (7)
Garry Winogrand (US; 1928-1984) (3)
Elliott Erwitt (France/US; 1928- ) (3)
Jay Maisel (US; 1931- ) (3)
Brian Duffy (UK; 1933- ) (4)
Jerry Uelsmann (US; 1934- ) (3)
Don McCullin (UK; 1935- ) (3)
Philip Jones Griffiths (UK; 1936-2008) (3)
David Bailey (UK; 1938- ) (4)
William Eggleston (US; 1939- ) (4)
Mary Ellen Mark (US; 1940- ) (6)
Patrick Demarchelier (France; 1943- ) (3)
Sebastião Salgado (Brazil; 1944- ) (6)
Robert Mapplethorpe (US; 1946-1989) (4)
James Nachtwey (US; 1948- ) (6)
Annie Leibovitz (US; 1949- ) (12)
Steve McCurry (US; 1950- ) (7)
Art Wolfe (US; 1951- ) (3)
Frans Lanting (Netherlands/US; 1951- ) (3)
Herb Ritts (US; 1952-2002) (4)
Martin Parr (UK; 1952- ) (3)
Nan Goldin (US; 1953- ) (3)
Cindy Sherman (US; 1954- ) (6)
Mario Testino (Peru/US; 1954- ) (4)
Steven Meisel (US; 1954- ) (3)
Ellen von Unwerth (Germany; 1954- ) (3)
Nick Knight (UK; 1958- ) (4)
David LaChapelle (US; 1963- ) (5)

Here, again, are the best photos lists:
Best Photography of All Time: Part I – 1826-1945
Best Photography of All Time; Part II – 1946-2011

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