Sunday, January 2, 2011

Masters of Photography

If you're a photographer, or even an art lover, chances are you've heard of the likes of Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Edward Weston just to name a few.  These folks are considered to be Masters of Photography and so many of us have studied these individuals, modeled our own works after them and have tried to duplicate their works for the sake of learning and a better understanding of our own craft.  Not only have these people rose above the occasion as influences on millions of photographers, their works have entertained and regaled millions more.

To be considered a Master of anything in my mind, is to show years of dedication, perseverance, skill and an undaunting desire to excel at what you do.  From a photography stand point, I find that these are people who have continuously produced works of art that do more than hang on a wall, they capture the viewer's soul and imagination.  They produce works that make you stop and simply do more than just "look".  They touch you in some way you weren't expecting and leave you with a yearning for more.

I seriously doubt that any of the aforementioned photographers would have considered themselves Masters of anything during their own lifetimes.  So, to kick off the new year, I'd like to share who I think could equally be Masters of Photography during our own day and age.  Click the Read more link to see what's cooking...


This list of current Masters of Photography is simply my opinion and by no means includes every photographer out there that could be considered a Master.  This list is simply a summary of the folks I think that have rose above the masses and have stood out as leaders in their field.


In no particular order, here we go...



Dan Winters - Commercial, editorial and passionate shooter, Mr. Winters excels at interesting compositions through the use of skilled set building and the mastering of intricate lighting.  Every one of his photographs seems to have this air of classicism and intrigue, being from either composition, lighting, the subject or all of the above.  He is perhaps known best for his celebrity portraits but has done so much more in other fields as well.  His portraits simply grip you with mystery and awe and he portrays his subjects in a light that seems to make them bigger than life.  If you're a 'lighting photographer' then this man is definitely one to study.

Joe McNally - Joe is probably my favorite photographer (if I had to pick one) and not just because of his amazing body of work, but also because of his wit, humor and willingness to share his trials, experiences and failures of a lifetime of photographing every kind of assignment known to man.  Joe has done assignments for all the major magazines of our time including National Geographic and LIFE.  He is without a doubt, a master of light, color and composition.  Every single one of his works tells a story and is rich with content and is a visual symphony.  Also he is a prolific teacher, writer and has shared with thousands of photographers how to perfect their skills in a highly competitive market.  He has also received numerous awards and recognitions and continues to strive for that perfect image.

   In a blog post of his a while back, he made the coolest statement that sums up being a photographer in my mind, and I quote "...there is so much still to do, so much ground to cover, and my best work is still out there, somewhere. I am still on safari here, the great picture hunt, as someone once called it."  This man is truly a Master of Photography.

Annie Leibovitz - From her modest beginnings of shooting with a small, San Francisco based periodical called Rolling Stone to her bigger than life compositions of today's most notable characters, Annie has left a stamp on the photographic industry with her vision and master skills behind the lens.  Not only has she photographed some of the world's most popular icons, she also has made some of the most famous images in this century.  From rock stars to heads of state, every portrait she seems to capture leaves an indelible mark on our society and continues to be in the fore front of masterful image making.  Some photographers seek out the most elusive of subjects to portray, but not Annie, those subjects come to her!  Her reputation and mastery of her craft simply make her one of the most sought after photographers working in the industry today.  Pretty much any business that hires her for a job can bank on the fact that they will be more successful simply because of the images she creates for them.  This in my mind definitely qualifies her as a Master of Photography.

Scott Kelby - I know what you're thinking, Scott is a Photoshop guru and a successful "techie" book writer.  Well, I'd have to agree with you, but what I think makes Scott a Master of Photography is his undisputed skill as a photography teacher.  Perhaps no other person in my time has done more to educated people in the art of photography.  Scott has been teaching the world photography with his books, his blog, his online Kelby Training and his numerous seminars for many years now and has opened the world of photography to so many who might not have otherwise taken up this pursuit.  His passion and love for photography is obviously apparent in his teaching and his photographic work.  You might not see his works on the cover of National Geographic or Rolling Stone, but where you will see them is in the hearts and minds of so many dedicated followers.  This is what I feel makes Scott a Master of Photography, and if you think his work doesn't stand out against the competition, then take a look at his portfolio!

Gregory Heisler - Another icon in the industry, Gregory Heisler has been creating jaw dropping images of some of the world's most notable subjects and has more covers on TIME magazine than any other single photographer.  He is known for his lighting aesthetic and ability to portray every subject with grace and dignity.  Some of the top industry leaders and brands have sought his ability to market their products, be it actors, performers, sports legends or politicians.  He is also a renowned teacher, working for some of the most prestigious photographic institutes in the country and is the Artist-in-Residence at the Hallmark Institute of Photography.  Gregory is a Master of Photography.


David Hobby - Also known as the Strobist, this man has single handedly instructed the world in the use of off camera flash and strobes.  He may not have been the first to pioneer these techniques but he most certainly has been the one to popularize it the most in such an enthusiastic way.  Once a staff photographer for the Baltimore Sun, David sensed that photo journalism for newspapers may be on the decline and left that paper on amicable terms to pursue his own self employment and started his blog instructing people on the use of off camera flash.  His skill and creativity as a photographer is only surpassed by his personality and ability to reach people of all levels in learning how to use off camera lighting to augment their photography.  I can't think of a single other photography related blog that has been as popular and instructive to so many people around the world as his.  Photo District News listed him as one of "The Five Biggest Photographers on the Internet" and he has a Flickr group with over 85,000 members from all over the world wishing to discuss his lighting and photography techniques.  His own photography is a cut above the rest with masterfully composed images using a mix of composition, color and lighting.

Dave Hill - Perhaps no other photographer in recent years has been so imitated, so much so that the moniker "the Dave Hill technique" is fairly common lingo with many photographers today.  Why do so many want to emulate his work?  I suppose its a matter of interest and popularity.  His work definitely has its own look and has transcended modern photography.  Just Google Dave Hill and see how many thousands of hits come up.  Dave definitely is an accomplished photographer creating works that aren't only photographs, but entire story boards.  His unusual stylized works are not only well conceived and technically executed, they are works of art and intrigue.  Maybe not everyone is in to the "Dave Hill look" but I for one certainly recognize his skill as a photographer and a post processing artist as a mastery unto itself.  Often imitated but never duplicated Dave Hill has carved a niche in to photographic society and I think this definitely classifies him as a Master of Photography.

Mark Seliger - Mark Seliger is an editorial photographer who's images have been gracing the pages of top notch magazines such as Rolling Stone (holds the record number of covers), Us, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Conde Nast.  His work is easily identifiable in its quality, composition and execution.  His skill, history and professionalism have been contributing to the successes of the fashion industry and he is one of the most requested photographers in that industry.  His success as a photographer has not only propelled him through the photography industry but has also led to his directing of several short films and music videos.  Recipient of numerous awards and dedications, Mark is definitely in the top end of his business and undoubtedly deserves the title of Master of Photography.

Chase Jarvis - Quite possibly, Chase is the "hippest dude" in photography today and always on the cutting edge of the latest, creative photographic technology.  Creative types around the world have been snapping him up to represent their companies and products with the vigor and electricity he brings to all his projects.  He has worked for Nike, Apple, Volvo, Jeep, Red Bull and many more.  He may also be one of the only photographers in the world classified as a Nikon, Hasselblad and ASMP master of photography.   Not only is he one of the top quality pros out there, but he also has an unbreakable desire to share his skills and energy with other photographers, especially those just starting out.  Another great thing about this Master of Photography is his humble demeanor.  I can't think of too many greatly successful people, in any industry, that seem so personal and willing to help others.  He is always on the go and its hard to say where this guy is going to wind up next.

and last, but definitely not least is,

David duChemin - Not your average professional shooter out there, David's work is one of emotion and photographing human nature in all its trials and tribulations, successes and short-comings.  David is an international assignment photographer documenting the world and its people to primarily bring attention to humanitarian needs.  Every image he creates has a meaning and a story of someone's life, their environment and/or both.  His work has spanned the globe countless times over and he's never in one place for long.  I'm certain being a traveling, humanitarian photographer must be hard at times (both mentally and physically) but he carries that weight as if it was change in his pocket.  All of his images are breathtakingly artistic in their color, composition and emotions they evoke.  Some may be simply conceived or took months to plan.  His images and visions come to life before you and make you feel as if you were there.  David also is an author, a contributor to the Manfrotto School of Excellence and a frequent blogger.  This man definitely rates up high in the annals of Masters of Photography.

So there you have it, my list of modern Masters of Photography!  Again, this by no means is an all-inclusive list of photographers who I think should be considered masters of their craft, its only my opinion.


What I'd really like to know is, who do you think should be considered a modern master of photography and why?

Please list your suggestions in the comments below and a brief reason why.  I think this would make a great source of information.  Thanks and I hope you enjoyed this post!  I hope you have all the best in 2011!

2 comments:

JJ Henderson said...

Hey John,

I think no list of modern masters could be complete without Art Wolfe. Art is one of Canon's explorers of light and one of the best if not the best Wildlife photographers in the world. He also frequently photographs people around the world in many countries and bridges the gap of spoken languauge with photography. He also has a series called Travels to the Edge. Just an awesome photographer and ambassador for photography.

John said...

Thanks for sharing this J.J.! I was only a little familiar with Art Wolf but after searching the web on him, I have to say, his work is gorgeous and I definitely think he fits in as a Master of Photography.