Honoring The Ghosts Of Photographers Past

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

Honoring The Ghosts Of Photographers Past

By photo by J. Malcolm Greany [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By photo by J. Malcolm Greany [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Whether you know it or not, if you’re a serious photographer, at least some part of your work has been influenced by the great photographers of yesteryear.

Even if it’s subconsciously, photographers are influenced by photography they have seen before. And whether or not the names I will list below are familiar to you, you can bet that you’ve seen the work of these great photographers. It might be that you’ve seen their images directly or the influence they have had in other photographers’ works.

One of my favorite things about photographs is that they have the potential to live on past their makers. They can serve as a permanent reminder of someone else’s memories.

By studying the works of these heroes of the past, we can move photography forward into the future with the knowledge we have honored their work.

I’m not going to try to list every great photographer I’ve studied, nor does exclusion from this list mean I don’t respect someone. Instead, I am merely providing a list that I think will be helpful, especially to newbies, who want to know who’s had a lasting impact on the art form.

So in no particular order, here are some photographers that I think you should consider studying.

Eliot Porter

…was a great nature photographer and was influenced by two others on this list, Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz.

Imogen Cunningham

…was a member of the famed Group f/64 and a master of everything from fine art nudes, to industrial landscapes. For those of you who are experimenting with soft focus, just know she was doing it 70 years ago.

Paul Strand

…is one of my personal favorites. He was prolific over a period of 60 years and was known for introducing modernism into photography. As was the case with so many famous photographers, he was helped by Alfred Steiglitz.

Edward Weston

…was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship and was the master of still lives. But also did a lot of work with landscapes and nudes.

Dorothea Langue

…was a superb documentary photographer. She is famous for her photojournalistic approach to documenting the Great Depression and it’s almost certain that you have seen her images if you’ve ever studied photos from that era.

Henri-Cartier Bresson

…was the master of candid photography – also known as street photography. He is the reason the term “street photography” exists. His views on the “decisive moment” have informed my own in many ways and he was a master of storytelling with a camera.

Ansel Adams

…belongs on this list if for no other reason that he has influenced so many landscape photographers who have followed in his footsteps. His work with the zone system became the basis for the first wide-spread use of the darkroom to manipulate the final result in print. He was the founder of Group f/64.

Alfred Stieglitz

…was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form. He was married to Georgia O’Keeffe (who was a famous painter) and he helped to discover many artists by featuring them at his art galleries. Stieglitz produced more than 2,500 mounted photographs over his career.

Gordon Parks

…was an American photographer, musician, writer and film director, who became prominent in U.S. documentary photojournalism in the 1940s through 1970s—particularly in issues of civil rights, poverty and African-Americans—and in glamour photography

Shōmei Tōmatsu

…was perhaps the most influential Japanese photographer of the post-war era. His raw, grainy and impressionistic style was a dramatic break with the quiet formalism that had defined earlier photography. Influencing the anti-establishment Provoke photography movement in Japan in the late 1960s, he is hailed as the stylistic mentor of artists such as Daido Moriyama, Nobuyoshi Araki and Takuma Nakihara.

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One Response

  1. Great post Scott. I have one for you that you might not know about and I am sure you would enjoy learning about him. The book is H.H. Bennett photographer, His American Landscape by Sara Rath. He took up photography after the civil war and became known for his technical innovations in photography, one of which is housed in the Smithsonian Institution. The book is about his life story and includes many of his images.

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