Perhaps the most important aspect of any creative skill is observation. In addition to theory and even practice, the creator must be well versed in the works of famous masters. Therefore, artists study the history of art, musicians — musical literature, and photographers are told about professionals in photography. Fortunately, you can explore these materials on your own, choose the style that seems the most attractive and shoot, referring to the founders of the genre. Today we will talk about photographers whose work is a must-know for anyone who is passionate about photography.
Alfred Stiglitz (1864 — 1946)
In 1890, Stieglitz returned to New York after studying in Germany to prove that photography was no less a subject of art than painting or sculpture. As editor of Camera Notes magazine, he sought to convey to readers the aesthetic potential of this medium. In 1902, Stiglitz and a group of like-minded people broke away from the editorial board of the magazine and created their own movement.
Photo-Secession. The group shot documentary and reportage photos, often depicting the life of the lower strata of society.
Stiglitz is considered one of the greatest masters of pictorialism, that is, the convergence of the style of photography with painting.
Throughout the life of a photographer, his approach to realizing and proving his own ideas has changed systematically, hence the constantly progressive changes in style.
Among Stiglitz’s experimental photographs, there are several related to early solarization. Most historians believe that Stieglitz deliberately overexposed his shots, but solarization was only a side effect.
Stiglitz’s works have not only social, but also artistic value. Therefore, every photographer should know about them.
Source: The Atlantic
Margaret Burke-White (1904–1971)
Bourke-White is known for several achievements at once. In 1930, she became the first Western photographer who was allowed to visit the industrial sites of the USSR, so her photographs are of particular value for history. And after that, she was invited to work in Life magazine, where she became the first female photojournalist in history.
One of the pictures she took for Life during the construction of the Fort Peck Dam ended up on a US postage stamp.
Margaret Bourke-White has photographed all over the world, one of her most famous photographs is a portrait of Gandhi.
Her contributions to history did not end there, for during World War II she was the first woman war journalist and the first woman to be allowed to work at the front. She was also the only foreign photographer present during the German attack on Moscow.
Margaret Bourke-White created classic reportage photographs that captured the environment and the essence of the characters. Her pictures have always been layered and emotional. Her work is held in several US museums and the Library of Congress.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 — 2004)
This photographer is called the father of photojournalism. In his work, he applied the education of an artist and a graphic artist, which allowed him to form a unique style. From 1930, inspired by the photographs of Atget, Kertész, and Munkacsy, Cartier-Bresson purchased a small-format Leica camera in order to take photography seriously.
With a group of colleagues, Cartier-Bresson founded the photojournalism agency Magnum photo. It was on behalf of this organization that he visited India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Cuba, the USSR and other countries. The works of Cartier-Bresson were exhibited in the most famous museums in the world, but in 1966, after leaving the Magnum-Photo agency, Cartier-Bresson moved to Provence and devoted himself to painting.
Cartier-Bresson was the first photographer to apply the principle of invisibility to the characters in his photographs. He even sealed the elements of the camera with electrical tape so that they would not glare. His tradition is to shoot at the moment of the culmination of events, and he usually shot with standard lenses, avoiding telephoto photography. This forced the photographer to get as close to the subject as possible.
Source: The New York Times
Ansel Adams (1902–1984)
Adams is known not only for his photographs, but also for his books, including the trilogy “Camera”, “Negative”, “Print”.
From the age of 17, Adams was a member of the Sierra Club, which was engaged in the protection of natural monuments. This left an imprint on the theme of his photographs, as many of them were natural landscapes and were used in the work of the club.
Already in the 1930s, Adams published photobooks and opened his own exhibitions. And in 1932, together with his colleagues, he created the Group f / 64. This collective adhered to the principles of direct photography, being the opposition to pictorialism, which was also represented by Alfred Stieglitz.
During World War II, Adams’ most prominent work was a photographic essay on the history of Japanese Americans.
In addition to his cultural contribution, that is, his work, Adams developed a “zone system” that allows photographers to determine exposure and shutter speed for optimal midtone reproduction, and in 1946 he created the first department of photography at the California School of the Arts.
Among the famous works of the photographer are “The Teton Range and the Snake River”, and a collection of Fiat Lux with photographs of the University of California campus.
Source: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Philip Halsman (1906–1979)
Halsman is considered the founder of surrealism in photography, which was largely facilitated by his acquaintance and friendship with Salvador Dali. In addition, Halsman is one of the most famous portrait painters, his photographs were published in Vogue, Mg and Voila magazines, and Marc Chagall, Jean Giraudoux and Le Corbusier were noted among the models.
In 1945, Halsman became the first president of the American Society of Magazine Photographers, including being a staff photographer for Life magazine. Thanks to this, he was able to shoot famous portraits of Einstein, Brigitte Bardot, Matisse, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Churchill and Jack Kennedy.
However, one of his most famous projects was a joint collection with Salvador Dali called Dali’s Mustache. This is a collection of surreal photographs that use various techniques and techniques that still impress photographers today.
Source: The Forward
Dorothea Lange (1895 ‑1965)
Lange is best known for her photographs of rural life in the United States during the Great Depression. She was educated as a photographer at Columbia University directly from Clarence White.
Like many other photographers, her creative path was closely associated with Aperture magazine, of which she was one of the founders, and Life magazine. But she became known precisely as a documentary photographer, thanks to photographs of people’s daily lives and the reflection of their problems in her pictures. This footage subsequently led to the coverage of these issues in the media and the provision of assistance to those in need.
In 1941, having received a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in photography, but having resigned it after the attack on Pearl Harbor, she went to film the evacuation of Japanese Americans.
In 1945, at the invitation of Ansel Adams, Lange began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts.
Dorothea Lange is considered one of the most influential photographers in history.
Source: Fenimore Art Museum
Edward Weston (1886 — 1958)
Weston’s introduction to photography began with a Kodak camera he received as a gift. He began filming in Chicago and in 1911 opened his own studio in California. At first, adhering to the ideas of pictorialism, later Weston moved into the ranks of supporters of direct photography. He constantly experimented with styles and created unique compositions. He also became the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.
In the 1920s, Weston became interested in nude photography. This genre remained one of the most frequent in the shooting of the photographer, but in addition, he often shot objects, portraits, landscapes and much more. In 2013, two photographs of Weston’s work were among the most expensive stills ever sold. The Nude was bought for $1.6 million, and Nautilus for $1.1 million. After the photographer’s death, the largest exhibitions of his work were held in the USA and France. Most of the photographs are either exhibited in museums or are in private collections.
George Harrell (1904 — 1992)
The concept of glamor and, accordingly, photography in this style, is inextricably linked with the name of Herrell. In the late 1920s, Hurrell met actor Ramon Novarro and agreed to take some pictures of him. The actor liked the result so much that he showed them to Norma Scherer, who was just trying to get a role in the film. Collaboration with the actress gave rise to provocative photos uncharacteristic for that time, which led to the fact that Scherer’s husband offered Herrell a contract with MGM. Work in the studio did not last long, until 1932, when, after creative differences, Hurrell opened his own studio. It was in it that he took pictures of today’s legendary actors: Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and many others.
Nearly all of Harrell’s pre-war career consisted of celebrity shots, and all of the shots systematically maintained the opulent and sublime image that Hollywood created. However, in the 1950s, the requirements were very different, Harrell moved into advertising and worked in this direction for almost ten years. After the 70s, most of his legendary works were album covers. Albums by artists such as Tom Waits, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, etc. received covers created by the great Hollywood photographer’s camera.
Not all legendary masters belong to this particular time period, but it was their work that gave rise to many directions. Even today one can recognize in them the pure characteristics of styles and genres that are now achieved by much easier methods. Real professionalism and huge contributions are what all these photographers have in common. And the main thing for anyone who seeks to hone their skills is the opportunity to learn from their example, recognize the specifics and characteristics and, of course, adopt technical and artistic techniques.
When learning from the masters, it is best to first turn to the most legendary and talented historical figures. This is the only way to learn both history and practice.