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  1. #1
    Terry Christian's Avatar
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    Eight greatest photographers of 20th century

    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. #2

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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. #3

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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.
    Last edited by Mark Crabtree; 02-03-2013 at 12:52 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4

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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.
    Last edited by rthomas; 02-03-2013 at 12:58 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Added a name

  5. #5

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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. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Crabtree View Post
    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. That does still leave several others that it would be hard to ignore.
    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. #7
    Terry Christian's Avatar
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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. #8
    jp498's Avatar
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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. #9

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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. #10
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry Christian View Post
    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?
    Henri
    Eugene
    Arthur
    Dorothea
    Robert
    Jacques
    Josef
    Man

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

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