Eight greatest photographers of 20th century

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Terry Christian, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    I recently came across a t-shirt design that sported the first names of the greatest, most influential dance choreographers of the 20th century. Bold black letters, centered on a gray shirt:

    GEORGE
    MERCE
    MARTHA
    AGNES
    BOB
    JEROME
    TWYLA
    ALVIN

    I was just thinking about which eight photographers we would pick to be on a similar shirt. Everyone's lists would differ, I'm sure, according to the genre of photography favored, but whom would you say are the indisputable masters of the 20th century?
     
  2. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Influential is a difficult word. But here goes:

    O'Sullivian (the survey aesthetic has been re-appropriated by many contemporary LFCN guys)
    Atget (same reason as above)
    Evans
    Bresson
    R. Adams
    Shore
    Eggleston
    Soth

    I've defined 'influential' as those photographers who are clearly visually referenced the most in modern work.
    I haven't included Ansel or Weston for the same reason I wouldn't include The Beatles in a music list - goes without saying.
     
  3. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    I like your list and was surprised to see the first post not being AA, EW, PS,...

    I was ready to make the statement myself about influence. Still, I'm not sure at all about the idea that influential has to mean they are referenced in most modern work. Does that hold up in art, music? For how long? Things do move on.

    I was glad to see Walker Evans in your list, since so many people wouldn't think of him. He is not really one of the "popular" photographers, though everybody knows his greatest hits.

    But Ansel Adams was extremely influential and that style of photography was a major current through the 20th century. Hard to leave him out, though it makes a less tidy list. And Terry's question did ask about the indisputable masters. On that note I'd include Edward Weston. I guess it is where you want to put the emphasis.

    I do like your list for the solid thread that runs through it, but I think you'd have to put Robert Frank in there as a stepping stone after Walker Evans. Maybe O'Sullivan could free up a space since he wasn't 20th century. And Alec Soth really is more this century.
     
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  4. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    Atget
    Arbus
    E. Weston
    Cartier-Bresson
    Bourke-White
    Winogrand
    Mary Ellen Mark
    Karsh

    And...

    Eggleston... I know that's nine but if the question is the masters of the 20th century, he's also on my list.
     
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  5. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    My list would have these. No particular order. This is only six, and plenty of other names come to mind, but none seem quite as solid in the firmament. I'm sure some other very obvious choices will be suggested that I'm forgetting about. And Ansel of course, but I have trouble seeing him fit on this list.

    Walker Evans
    Edward Weston
    Gary Winogrand
    Diane Arbus
    Henri Cartier Bresson
    William Eggleston
     
  6. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Ah, thanks for pointing out O'Sullivan. Robert Frank was a blind omission, being slightly off my radar - but definitely agree with that suggestion, in relation to the rest.
    Being quite well versed in traditional landscape photography, for me, Ansel's influence is most directly referenced in this sphere. But I feel, for everyone, his true legacy is perhaps one of theory.
    Aesthetically/subjectively it's much harder to pinpoint references to him - it might be too deeply ingrained. I see his influence as a kind of broad ideological undercurrent, rather than anything tangible at this point.
    But that's just my perspective.

    My list certainly considers these photographers in a lineage of influence - an aesthetic recipe. Yum.
     
  7. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    In my original post I did assume that the t-shirt with choreographers referred to the "greatest," "most influential," "masters," etc. Maybe in retrospect I shouldn't have steered the list in any certain direction.

    Let's start over.
    A t-shirt is to have the first names of eight photographers of the 20th century on it. Who are they?
     
  8. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I hope it's a V-neck T-shirt.

    This list comes up from time to time, especially after an article goes up somewhere in the news stating a list of some sort, which invariably misses some important talent.

    Eliot Porter
    Clarence H White
    Karsh
    Hurrell
    Burtynsky
    Stieglitz

    For 21st century, I think the greatest are still mostly undiscovered so far, some of the folks on flickr, lff , here, and at workshops I've learned with have talent and images that would be easy to envy. It might have never been shared in the 20th century, and faces getting buried in the clutter in the 21st century.
     
  9. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

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    It looks like I'm sort of the odd man out, with my choices. I'd want to fill up the list with Life Magazine photographers, at least the ones who show the atrocities of war, and the like. But then I'd have to make room to fit in fashion and whatnot photogs, such as Avedon, Halsman, and Irving Penn. Lewis Hine has to fit in somewhere; his photos of working children led to child labor laws in the US. Then my favorite portraitists, Karsh and Arnold Newman. And I can't forget some of Roy Striker's FSA photographers: Gordon Parks and W. Eugene Smith are already on the list from Life Magazine, but is there a place for Walker Evans and Dorthea Lange? I think I have to have Ansel and Weston, but is there room for Steichen and Stieglitz, who got photography recognized as an art? Harold Edgerton's photographs by high-speed strobe enabled motion studies by means never seen, so he's pretty important (although largely unknown to art or photojournalistic photographers). In comparison, the Hollywood guys don't seem so important, sorry Hurrell, Laszlo, Clarence, et al. Also sorry to you, Andre Kertesz and Henri Cartie-Bresson, I couldn't find room on my list. I'm also leaving Horace Bristol off, as he is relatively unknown. Bristol had an idea for a Life Magazine story, he enlisted John Steinbeck to assist by writing the text. Unfortunately, Steinbeck stiffed him, saying that the story is "too important;" he wrote his own version, The Grapes of Wrath.

    I can't decide who else to knock off, so I'm going to cheat and put all the rest of 'em in (the tee shirt has a front and a back, right?)

    Ansel Adams
    Richard Avedon
    Robert Capa
    Harold Edgerton
    Alfred Eisenstaedt
    Walker Evans
    Philippe Halsman
    Lewis Hine
    Yousuf Karsh
    Dorthea Lange
    Carl Mydans
    Arnold Newman
    Gordon Parks
    Irving Penn
    W. Eugene Smith
    Margaret Bourke-White
    Alfred Steiglitz
    Edward Steichen
    Edward Weston
     
  10. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Henri
    Eugene
    Arthur
    Dorothea
    Robert
    Jacques
    Josef
    Man
     
  11. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    The trouble with first names is that we may well be into a biggest names, rather than just greatest. Even then the emphasis would almost have to be on distinct first names. Already, I'm unsure of at least half of cliveh's list; I've got some good guesses, but some half multiple likely possibilities.
     
  12. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    Okay, so we can make the list have last names only if necessary then. I was tempted to break the list up by genre, which would be nice for people who only shoot or are fans of a certain style, but the dance shirt had no such breakdown. So feel free to break your lists up accordingly if you think they may be biased toward a certain style.
     
  13. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    I figured all the dance names out :cool:
     
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  15. stormpetrel

    stormpetrel Member

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    Here is my selection for you teeshirt

    August
    Ansel
    Dorothea
    Eugene
    Henri
    Man
    Robert
    Sebastião
    Walker
    William
     
  16. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    How can they be the eight greatest when everyone has their own opinion ?, " comparisons are odious ", and what yardstick do you use to compare one with another ?.
     
  17. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    "Greatest" is a ridiculous list. "Influential" might be slightly more realistic if we try to be somewhat objective. For example, I'd put HCB in the list of 8 most influential. I have to accept that. But he probably wouldn't be anywhere on my list of greatest photographers, no matter how long the list is.

    Thinking more about this, even making a list of influential photographers is not easy. Do we mean influential in some sort of complex academic way, or do we define it more simply as someone who has influenced many people to take up the hobby (and the style)? If it is the latter, I'd have to say Ansel Adams 8 times.
     
  18. batwister

    batwister Member

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    For hobbyists, admittedly, Ansel is probably the biggest influence. But that makes for a boring list.
    I tried to think in terms of those who have influenced other notable practitioners - or the lineage of photography.

    Who cares who influenced Jim Bob Fine Art Photographer from South Dakota? Probably his high school chemistry teacher...
     
  19. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    That's a fair point.
     
  20. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    MAN (ray )
    LAZLO (maholy nagy )
    STARN (twins )
    El (Lazar) (Morduchovitch Lissitzky)
    MIROSLAV (Tichý)

    sorry, i can't think of anymore worth mentioning
     
  21. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    Robert
    Robert
    Robert
    William
    William
    William
    Gary
    Diane

    Substitute Ansel to taste.
     
  22. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Have to give a nod to William (henry fox talbot)
    Then there is Louis (Daguerre)
    Then Mathew (giving us the civil war)
    Alfred (who is famous for being influential and advanced photography as an art)
    from here it is more and more a matter of personal taste.
    Edward
    Ansel
    Irving
    Richard
     
  23. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I notice we keep dipping back into the 19th century for some of these. For strictly 20th century, I'd say, in no particular order,

    Robert (Mapplethorpe)
    Imogen (Cunningham)
    Sally (Mann)
    Diane(Arbus)
    Helmut (Newton - note inclusion does not mean endorsement)
    Richard (Avedon)
    Paul (Strand)
    Ansel (Adams)/Edward (Weston)/Aaron (Siskind) Three-way tie.

    I'm leaving Stieglitz and Steichen and the Pictorialists off of the 20th century list because Pictorialism was already dying by the 1920s, and the dominant 20th century aesthetic has been Modernist/post-Modernist.
     
  24. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    +1 I agree entirely Michael, "the eight greatest" is a far too simplistic approach, because what criteria do you use to compare one with the others ?
    "some are born great. some achieve greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them" -Shakespeare- Twelfth Night
     
  25. AndreasT

    AndreasT Member

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    I am rather surprised that my name doesn't show up here.
     
  26. stormpetrel

    stormpetrel Member

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    "famous" would be more appropriate.