Famous 20th Century Photographers

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Photographers, including Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams, Helena Christensen, Jacques Cousteau and Robert Mapplethorpe.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: February 20, 1902
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: April 22, 1984

Ansel Adams was an American photographer and environmentalist. Best known for capturing the beauty of the American West, Adams helped found the Group f/64. He also formulated a photographic technique called the Zone System, which helped photographers come up with clearer images. For his photographic work and advocacy for environmental conservation, Ansel Adams was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 2 Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz.
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Famous As: Portrait Photographer
Birthdate: October 2, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S.

Anna-Lou Leibovitz is an American portrait photographer whose career is defined by intimate photographs of celebrities, as exemplified by her famous portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, hours before the English musician’s murder. The Rolling Stone magazine provided the platform for her photographic talent during the early years of her career. She was involved in a controversy over an apparent topless photo of Miley Cyrus.

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 3 Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe.
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Famous As: Photographer, Film director
Birthdate: November 4, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Floral Park
Died: March 9, 1989

Best known for his black and white photographs, Robert Mapplethorpe chose homoerotic themes to express himself. His male nudes reflected the gay BDSM subculture of New York. His works also included flowers, still lifes, and portraits of celebrities. The gay photographer-artist eventually died of aids.

 4 Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: March 14, 1923
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: July 26, 1971

 5 Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: May 26, 1895
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hoboken, New Jersey, United States
Died: October 11, 1965

 6 Robert Capa

Robert Capa.
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Famous As: Photographer, Photojournalist
Birthdate: October 22, 1913
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: May 25, 1954

Robert Capa was a Hungarian-American photojournalist and war photographer. Regarded as the greatest adventure and combat photographer of all time, Robert Capa is best remembered for covering five major wars, namely Second Sino-Japanese War, Spanish Civil War, World War II, First Indochina War, and the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. In 1947, he was honored with the prestigious Medal of Freedom.

 7 Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman
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Famous As: Photographer, Film director
Birthdate: January 19, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glen Ridge
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 8 Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson.
4
Famous As: Photographer and Painter
Birthdate: August 22, 1908
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chanteloup-en-Brie, France
Died: August 3, 2004

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French humanist photographer. Considered a master of candid photography, he pioneered the genre of street photography. He was among the earliest users of the 35 mm film. In 1947, he became one of the founding members of Magnum Photos, an international photographic cooperative. In his later years, he explored drawing and painting. 

 9 David Bailey

David Bailey
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: January 2, 1938
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Leytonstone

 10 David LaChapelle

David LaChapelle
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: March 11, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fairfield

 11 Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon.
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Birthdate: May 15, 1923
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: October 1, 2004

 12 Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton.
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Famous As: Fashion Photographer
Birthdate: October 31, 1920
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: January 23, 2004

Helmut Newton was a German-American photographer whose works earned him accolades all over the world. His photographs were featured on popular fashion magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. He also worked closely with Playboy, shooting several pictorials of models like Kristine DeBell and Nastassja Kinski.

 13 Gerda Taro

Gerda Taro
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: August 1, 1910
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
Died: July 26, 1937

Gerda Taro was a German Jewish war photographer who was active during the Spanish Civil War. As a young woman, she became interested in Leftist politics. She then became involved with photographer Robert Capa and began her own career in photojournalism. She died in 1937 while covering the frontline during the Spanish Civil War.  

 14 Linda McCartney

Linda McCartney.
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Famous As: Photographer, Musician
Birthdate: September 24, 1941
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: April 17, 1998
Linda McCartney, the first wife of Paul McCartney, formed the band Wings with her husband, after the Beatles disbanded. An animal rights activist, she wrote several vegetarian cookbooks, apart from launching Linda McCartney Foods. She was also a skilled photographer and published a photo book. She died of breast cancer.  

 15 Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Venice, Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper was an American actor, photographer, and filmmaker. His directorial film debut Easy Rider glorified the counterculture of the 1960s and became the cinematic symbol of counterculture, inspiring several youngsters. Also a photographer, Hopper’s photographs of the 1963 March on Washington were published. Hopper is also credited with influencing actress Amber Tamblyn whose father was one of his friends.

 16 Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: January 14, 1904
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England
Died: January 18, 1980

 17 Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry
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Famous As: photojournalist, photographer, journalist
Birthdate: February 24, 1950
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Darby

Steve McCurry is an American photographer and photojournalist whose photo Afghan Girl has appeared on the cover page of National Geographic magazine on multiple occasions. Over the course of his illustrious career, Steve McCurry has won numerous awards and honors, such as the Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal and the Lucie Award for Photojournalism.

 18 Alexandra Hedison

Alexandra Hedison.
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Famous As: Photographer, Actress, Director
Birthdate: July 10, 1969
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
Alexandra Hedison is a renowned photographer and has exhibited her creations at numerous galleries, throughout the U.S. and Europe. She has also appeared in the series The L Word and Nash Bridges. Openly lesbian, she has dated Ellen DeGeneres in the past and is now married to Jodie Foster.

 19 Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon

Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: March 7, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Belgravia
Died: January 13, 2017

From working as a photographer to becoming one of the members of the British royal family, Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon had an amazing journey. Despite being known for his marriage with Princess Margaret, he was also known for his philanthropy and charity work. He also co-designed the Snowdon Aviary, which is now part of the famous London Zoo.

 20 Kevin Carter

Kevin Carter.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: September 13, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Johannesburg
Died: July 27, 1994

Kevin Carter was a South African photojournalist whose photograph titled the vulture and the little girl, which depicted the 1993 famine in Sudan, earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1994. Carter committed suicide in 1994 after suffering from depression. A book titled The Bang Bang Club, which was later made into a film, depicts his story.

 21 David Hockney

David Hockney.
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Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: July 9, 1937
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bradford

Painter, photographer, printmaker, and stage designer David Hockney is best known for his works such as Portrait of an Artist, which became the most expensive piece of art by a living artist ever auctioned, at $90 million. His works have explored themes such as homosexuality. He has synesthesia, too.

 22 Dmitry Medvedev

Dmitry Medvedev
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Famous As: Jurist, Politician, Photographer, Blogger, Lawyer, Actor, Businessperson
Birthdate: September 14, 1965
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg

Dmitry Medvedev, the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, has also been the prime minister and president of Russia. Born to teacher parents, he was an intelligent child and began studying his father’s encyclopedia in third grade. He is known for his support of the nuclear disarmament treaty.

 23 Helena Christensen

Helena Christensen.
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Famous As: Danish photographer
Birthdate: December 25, 1968
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Copenhagen

Helena Christensen is a Danish photographer and supermodel. A former beauty queen, clothing designer, and Victoria's Secret Angel, Christensen has been featured on cover pages of magazines, such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Well-known for her philanthropic activities, Christensen has participated in campaigns to raise awareness about climate change. She has also launched fundraising campaigns to fight against breast cancer.

 24 Gina Lollobrigida

Gina Lollobrigida
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Famous As: Actor, Photographer, Sculptor, Journalist
Birthdate: July 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Subiaco

Gina Lollobrigida is an Italian actress and photojournalist counted amongst the highest-profile European actresses of the 1950s and 1960s. Considered a  sex symbol in her youth, she had a successful career both in the film and TV industries. She later built a second career as a photojournalist. She is a recipient of the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award.  

 25 Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado
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Famous As: Photojournalist, Painter, Journalist
Birthdate: February 8, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Aimorés

 26 Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White
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Famous As: Photographer, War photographer, Photojournalist, Journalist
Birthdate: June 14, 1904
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City
Died: August 27, 1971

 27 Cynthia Daniel

Cynthia Daniel.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: March 17, 1976
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Gainesville, Florida

Cynthia Daniel is a photographer and former actress. The twin sister of Brittany Daniel, Cynthia followed in the footsteps of her sister to become an actress. However, she retired from acting in 1997 and chose to become a photographer, even as her twin sister Brittany Daniel continued to pursue acting.

 28 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei.
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Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: August 28, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Beijing
Named Art Review’s most powerful artist in 2011, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has become a symbol of resilience against the authoritarian Chinese government. Jailed and banned from leaving the country once, he is known for using various media, such as sculpture, photos, and documentaries, to reflect Chinese human-rights abuses.

 29 Susan Mikula

Susan Mikula.
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Famous As: Photographer, Rachel Maddow’s Partner
Birthdate: 1958 AD
Birthplace: New Jersey, United States
Self-taught photographer Susan Mikula is known for using old Polaroids and pinhole cameras to create her masterpieces. She was an accountant earlier and has also worked for the U.S. consulate in Mexico. The LGBT icon is in a long-term relationship with her partner, journalist and TV personality Rachel Maddow.

 30 W. Eugene Smith

W. Eugene Smith
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Famous As: Photographer, Photojournalist, War photographer, Journalist
Birthdate: December 30, 1918
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Wichita
Died: October 15, 1978

W. Eugene Smith was an American photojournalist whose major photo essays include photographs of the Second World War. His work, Country Doctor, which he photographed for Life magazine, is now widely regarded as the first extended editorial photo story. An organization named W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund has been established in his honor to support young photographers. 

 31 Irving Penn

Irving Penn
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: June 16, 1917
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Plainfield
Died: October 7, 2009

Irving Penn was an American photographer best remembered for his portraits, fashion photography, and still lifes. He was one of the earliest photographers to pose his subjects against a white or grey backdrop. During his illustrious career, he worked for popular publications like Vogue. He was honored by the German Society for Photography with the prestigious Cultural Award in 1987. 

 32 Josh Gates

Josh Gates
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Famous As: Explorer, Photographer
Birthdate: August 10, 1977
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gloucester

Josh Gates is an American television producer and presenter who specializes in hosting and executive producing paranormal reality television series like Destination Truth, Ghost Hunters, and Stranded. Josh Gates also has his own production company named Ping Pong Productions which he uses to produce such television shows as Ghost Nation. 

 33 Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: April 9, 1830
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England
Died: May 8, 1904

 34 Barret Oliver

Barret Oliver.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: August 24, 1973
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California

 35 Lewis Hine

Lewis Hine
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Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: September 26, 1874
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States
Died: November 3, 1940

 36 Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński
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Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: February 24, 1929
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sanok, Poland
Died: February 21, 2005

 37 Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy.
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Famous As: Sculptor & Photographer
Birthdate: July 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cheshire, England

English sculptor, artist, and photographer Andy Goldsworthy has revolutionized outdoor art by creating masterpieces with naturally available material such as rain, snow, and rocks. A farm laborer in his younger days, he developed an early love for nature and the elements. Rain Shadows remains one of his best-loved works.

 38 Abbas Kiarostami

Abbas Kiarostami
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Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter, Photographer, Film producer, Poet, Film editor
Birthdate: June 22, 1940
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tehran
Died: July 4, 2016

 39 Agnes Varda

Agnes Varda
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Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: May 30, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium
Died: March 29, 2019

Agnes Varda was a Belgian-born French film director, screenwriter, and artist. She was a key figure in the development of the French New Wave film movement of the 1950s and 1960s. She often made films addressing women’s issues and other social justice problems. She was honored with an Academy Honorary Award. She was married to director Jacques Demy. 

 40 Dora Maar

Dora Maar
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Famous As: Photographer, Artist, Painter, Poet, Choreographer, Sculptor, Model
Birthdate: November 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: July 16, 1997

Born to a French mother and a Croatian father, Dora Maar spent her childhood in Argentina and later studied art in Paris. The renowned surrealist artist and photographer later gained fame as Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse, and was featured in his paintings such as Weeping Woman.

 41 Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky
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Famous As: Artist, Photographer, University teacher
Birthdate: January 15, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Leipzig

Known for his blatant use of digital manipulation and unique compositional strategies, Andreas Gursky is one of the most pricey, yet bestselling photographers of our time, with his best known work, Rhein II, fetching $4.3 million in 2011.  The first to produce large prints, measuring 6 × 8 feet or more, he also taught fine arts at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

 42 Russ Meyer

Russ Meyer.
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: March 21, 1922
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: San Leandro, California
Died: September 18, 2004

Russ Meyer was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, editor, and cinematographer. He is best remembered for directing a series of popular sexploitation films, such as Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! After his death, the majority of his estate and money went to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, as per his will.

 43 William Eggleston

William Eggleston
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Famous As: Photographer, Artist
Birthdate: July 27, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Memphis

 44 Walker Evans

Walker Evans
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Famous As: Photographer, Photojournalist, Journalist
Birthdate: November 3, 1903
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: St. Louis
Died: April 10, 1975

 45 Don McCullin

Don McCullin
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Famous As: Autobiographer, War photographer, Journalist
Birthdate: October 9, 1935
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Finsbury Park

 46 Arlene Alda

Arlene Alda.
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Famous As: Musician, Photographer, Writer
Birthdate: March 12, 1933
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York City, New York

 47 Hedi Slimane

Hedi Slimane
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: July 5, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France

French designer Hedi Slimane began his career as a marketing assistant at Yves Saint Laurent. His menswear silhouettes earned him a CFDA International Designer Award. He now works with the luxury brand Celine. He is also a skilled photographer and has released several photo books and worked for several magazines.

 48 Chris Jagger

Chris Jagger
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Famous As: Musician, Photographer, Music journalist
Birthdate: December 19, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dartford

 49 Gilles Bensimon

Gilles Bensimon
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Famous As: photographer
Birthdate: February 29, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vic-sur-Cère

 50 Astrid Kirchherr

Astrid Kirchherr
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: May 20, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hamburg

Astrid Kirchherr was a German photographer and artist who was famous for the photographs she took of the original band members of the Beatles. She wanted to study fashion designing as a young woman but shifted to photography at the recommendation of a teacher. She later became acquainted with the Beatles and took several iconic photographs of them.