“Who inspires you?” Every photographer will have a different set of answers for this question and those answers will probably change as their own style and taste evolve. Given that, the goal of this list is not to create a distinction between the photographers I have listed and those I have not, but rather to create a spark, a curiosity, about those who came before us.
This list features photographers with different approaches to portraiture, but are all somehow interconnected to each other.
Photo credit: Gordon Anthony McGowan via Flickr
Irvin Penn started working for Vogue Magazine in 1942. Over the span of fifty years with the magazine, he was responsible for more than 150 Vogue cover shoots. He was known for two things: being one of the first photographers to shoot a subject in front of a plain white or gray background, and positioning his subject in an enclosed angular space.
Photo credit: Cea via Flickr
Most of his portraits give a sense of pre-meditation and an acute feeling of constructed composition mostly attributed to his background as a painter. He photographed dozens of other icons that include Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Igor Stravinsky and Truman Capote.
Richard Avedon Another child of Vogue, Richard Avedon photographed most of the magazine’s covers from 1973 to 1988.
His obituary published in The New York Times described his work as something that "helped define America's image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century".
Avedon’s trademark style was characterized by stark lighting and plain white backgrounds, which he used to focus the attention on his subject’s expressions. It is said that Avedon was primarily interested in how photographs captured the personality and soul of his subjects.
A far cry from Penn and Avedon, Herb Ritts is known for his love of outdoor locations. Being a California native, he drew a lot of inspiration from the ocean and the dessert incorporated into the prevalent Hollywood sensibilities of glamour and a fit body.
Herb Ritts was known for changing the way nude bodies were depicted, photographing different bodies from various angles. His muses included Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell and was known to photograph Johnny Depp, David Bowie and Karl Lagerfeld
If Herb Ritts was known for taking au naturale photographs, Tim Walker takes his viewers into a fantasy world.
His work is often described as theatrical or surrealist, using production design, props and makeup to transport his subjects to a different world with little help from post-production.
Photo credit: Elliot James via Flickr. Photo of a prop used in a Tim Walker shoot
He described the environments he creates as "the parameters of the impossible”.
Annie Leibovitz started her career working at Rolling Stone magazine, best known for photographing the iconic John and Yoko cover.
She later moved on to working for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazine. A stark contrast from the first four photographers mentioned in this list, Leibovitz is known for wanting her subjects to feel very comfortable in her photos, often shooting them in environments where they feel most at home as exhibited by the recent portraits she took of Queen Elizabeth II with her corgies. Leibovitz is known for never shooting closeups even while shooting portraits, often utilising the backdrop to tell parts of her subject’s stories.
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