Our Favorite Photographers, Past and Present
Photography is an art like no other.
Rather than creating artwork with his own hands, a photographer merely acts as an observer, capturing an image from the real world in a split second.
So in order to produce great pictures, photographers must have top-notch camera skills and an eye for composition. But that’s not enough. As pro Peter Adams put it, “Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.”
With that idea in mind, here are some of our favorite photographers from the past and present.
Dorothea Lange – Depression-Era Photographer
One of the pioneers of documentary photography, Dorothea Lange’s best-known images were shot during the Great Depression in America. She worked as a staff photographer for the Farm Security Administration during the late 1930s – which is when she encountered the poverty-stricken migrant family showcased in her most iconic series of photos.
Instead of viewing her work as artistic, Lange preferred to think of herself as affecting social change, bringing attention to issues like the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. She was deeply committed to social justice and used photography to document the realities of life – always remaining true to herself and her subjects.
We can learn a lot from Lange’s dedication to her craft. As she once said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
Steve McCurry – Photojournalist
Best known for a photograph popularly referred to as “the Afghan girl” (shown in the image below), Steve McCurry has spent decades covering the human consequences of war and civil conflict – even putting himself in harm’s way to bring powerful imagery to the rest of the world.
“I don’t think pictures are worth dying for,” McCurry says, “but I don’t want to live knowing I was timid.” Fittingly, he has won numerous awards for his work, including one dedicated to photographers who exhibit exceptional courage in the field.
As for the famous Afghan girl that he first photographed in a refugee camp in 1984… McCurry managed to track her down 17 years later, and her identity was finally revealed to the world. The story behind the image is an amazing testament to the power of photography to touch lives across the globe.
Paul Nicklen – Wildlife & Nature Photographer
A Canadian photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist, Paul Nicklen deservedly has a huge following on social media today. His nature photos from some of the most isolated and inhospitable places on the planet are visually stunning, showcasing polar and marine animals that we rarely get to see – and often reflect the plight of endangered wildlife and environments.
One particularly memorable incident from Nicklen’s travels is the time he encountered a leopard seal who brought him live penguins. And then dead ones. As he describes it, the seal was seemingly trying to show him how to eat the penguins!
Recently inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame – the youngest inductee ever – Nicklen has published 20+ stories for National Geographic magazine, received more than 30 of the most prestigious awards given to any photographer in his field, and is highly sought after as an acclaimed speaker on conservation issues.
Ami Vitale – Documentary Photographer
Through sensitive visual storytelling, Ami Vitale brings both beauty and violence to the forefront in her work. She has traveled to more than 100 countries, and in the process lived in mud huts, spent time in war zones, contracted malaria, and even wore a panda suit.
That’s because Vitale believes in “living the story” as she pursues powerful images that create “awareness and understanding across cultures and countries.” Like Paul Nicklen, she’s not just a photographer; she’s an outspoken conservationist who highlights some of the world’s most pressing issues in her work.
Witnessing the final moments in the life of the world’s last male northern white rhino, Vitale had this to say: “When we see ourselves as part of nature, we understand that saving nature is really about saving ourselves.”
Photography is about so much more than just pretty pictures. It’s about documenting our lives, our planet, and the things that unite us. We’re inspired by these four incredible photographers, and we hope you are, too.
Even if you’re not a master of the craft just yet, grab your camera and snap a few photos from your own life! We’d love to see what you come up with…
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