My Top Ten List of Potentially Influential Photographers

As I mentioned in my Tuesday’s post, I have chosen ten photographers that I plan on studying, hoping to become inspired or even better, learn a few things. This top ten list was not an easy task. I could have easily spent a month, if not longer, researching photographers. Instead, I spent three hours. I figured I would keep my list to American photographers from the 20th century. So I googled, “The most influential American photographers from the 20th century”. Did I mention I was a good googler? As you can imagine, I came across list after list of the most influential photographers. There are many people out there with their own take on who should be considered the most influential photographers in history. There were names that popped up frequently, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Alfred Stieglitz, just to name a few. Now, if you are like me, with absolutely no knowledge of historically important photographers, then you will understand how unbelievably overwhelmed I felt. How was I going to choose ten photographers, when I couldn’t even identify a single one? Then it happened, a familiar name, Ansel Adams. Yea!! I knew him. I actually love his work. I started thinking this could be possible and with the help of Wikipedia I was off!

I typed name after name into the search box and briefly read a few words about many photographers. I read about their main focus when photographing and I checked out their work. Now, I am not taking away from these historical figures and their influence on photography, but I have to say I was left a little unimpressed. I know that sounds horrible and completely close minded, but more times than not I was left scratching my head. I just didn’t get it. I’m sure never having to study the history of photography has made me quite oblivious to the importance of these people and their contributions. I frequently came across photographers that mainly photographed nudes and were heavy into erotica. Then there were those that liked seeking out and photographing the strange and unusual. Where were my portrait photographers that photographed the non-prostitutes of the world? Things were not looking good.

I eventually scrapped the idea of just finding historical figures and decided to find photographers that I could relate to. My next attempt was to start thinking about what I like and what I enjoy about photography and being a photographer. So, this is what I came up with:

1. First, I am a woman. At this point my head was hurting. I needed to start slowly and look for the obvious (couldn’t get anymore obvious then that). I was going to try to find at least one woman photographer to add to the list.

2. I love nature. Done! Ansel Adams makes the list.

3. National Geographic was one of my main influences when growing up. I was going to find a NGS photographer.

4. I’m a Chicagoan. I was going to find a photographer from Chicago.

5. The rest of the list became easier. I enjoy photographing babies, children, families and weddings. I love using Photoshop and Lightroom. I’m thrilled when I get to experiment with my speedlites. I was going to include photographers that were involved in all these things.

So after many considerations I came up with a list that I am pretty excited about. It includes a few “Influential American Photographers from the 20th Century”, and some that are not considered historical, but will be, someday. With help from Wikipedia here are some brief descriptions of my Top Ten Potentially Influential Photographers.

1. Ansel Adams

2. Ruth Harriet Louise

3. Irving Penn

4. Duane Michals

5. Vivian Maier

6. Cindy Sherman

7. Steve McCurry

8. Anne Geddes

9. Scott Kelby

10. Bob Davis

So, that’s it, my Top Ten list of “Potentially Influential Photographers” and it only took me about four hours to write. I specify “Potentially Influential”, because I’m not sure if I’ll be influenced or not. Only time will tell.

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