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.
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.
Nicéphore Niépce revolutionized science by inventing heliography and made the first permanent photographic image. He had initially been part of Napoleon’s army but had to quit due to his failing health. The Niépce Prize is awarded to a photographer every year in France, in his honor.
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.
Claude Cahun was a French sculptor, surrealist photographer, and writer. He is best remembered for his work as a self-portraitist and writer. Apart from his primary career, Claude Cahun also played a major role in the Second World War, serving as a propagandist and resistance worker.
Gilles Bensimon was born to a painter mother and had struggled with dyslexia in childhood. He had also served the French army in the Algerian War. Nicknamed The Tripod, he later became one of the most popular celebrity photographers of his time, with a client list that included Madonna and Sharon Stone.
Gyula Halász, or Brassaï, derived his pseudonym from the city of his birth, Brassó, then in Hungary. Later, he moved to Paris, where he began his career as a photographer. He published his works in volumes such as Paris de nuit. He was also a sculptor and a poet.
French photographer Jean-Paul Goude shot to fame recently with his nude photo spread of Kim Kardashian for Paper magazine in 2014. Known for his signature use of the collage technique, he was also inspired by the black ballet dancers that he saw in his ballerina mother’s group performances.
Eugène Atget was a French flâneur credited with pioneering documentary photography. Renowned for his obstinacy to document all of the street scenes and architecture of Paris before the advent of urbanization, Atget's works inspired several surrealists. Unfortunately, Eugène Atget did not live to see the kind of reception his works eventually received; he was not celebrated during his lifetime.
Robert Doisneau was a French photographer best remembered for making photographs on the streets in the 1930s. A pioneer of photojournalism, Doisneau was an ardent advocate of humanist photography. Robert Doisneau was the recipient of prestigious awards, such as the Kodak Prize, Niépce Prize, and Balzac Prize. His 100th birthday was honored with a Google Doodle on 14 April 2012.
Emmanuelle Riva was a French actress best remembered for her portrayal of Anne Laurent in the 2012 romantic drama film Amour for which she won the prestigious César Award as well as a BAFTA Award. Riva achieved national recognition when she played the lead role in the 1959 film Hiroshima mon amour for which she earned a BAFTA Award nomination.
Valentine Monnier is a French actress, photographer, and model. Monnier has appeared on the covers of popular magazines like Cosmopolitan and Chic. Valentine Monnier made headlines in 2019 when she accused celebrated Polish-French filmmaker Roman Polanski of violently raping her when she was just 18 years old in Switzerland in 1975.
Chris Marker was a French photographer, writer, multimedia artist, film director, and film essayist. He is considered an exponent of the Left Bank subgroup of the French New Wave that came into existence in the 1950s and 1960s. After starting his career by working with members of the Left Bank Film Movement, Marker went on to help popularize the genre.
Matthieu Ricard is a French photographer, writer, translator, and Buddhist monk. He serves as a board member of the popular not-for-profit organization Mind and Life Institute. After having received a Ph.D. degree from the Pasteur Institute, Ricard gave up his scientific career to practice Tibetan Buddhism. He is also the co-founder of another international non-profit organization, Karuna-Shechen.
Elliott Erwitt is a French-born American documentary and advertising photographer. He is best known for his candid photos of absurd and ironic situations within everyday settings. Since 1953, Erwitt has been one of the most important members of the international photographic cooperative-owned association, Magnum Photos. Also an activist, Elliott Erwitt helped raise social awareness in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sophie Calle is a French photographer, writer, conceptual artist, and installation artist. Her work is associated with and evokes a popular French literary movement called Oulipo which came into existence in the 1960s. Renowned for her ability to investigate strangers, Calle’s work often depicts human vulnerability. Also an educator, Calle has taught at popular educational institutions like European Graduate School.
Patrick Demarchelier is a French fashion photographer who has worked for popular publications like Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. One of the most celebrated fashion photographers of his generation, Demarchelier has shot international campaigns for brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and TAG Heuer. Patrick Demarchelier has also shot the covers for almost all major fashion magazines, such as Rolling Stone.
François-Marie Banier is a French playwright, novelist, photographer, artist, and actor. Renowned for his photographs of public figures and celebrities, Banier is also known for his wide circle of friends and acquaintances with members of high society. In 2016, François-Marie Banier became entangled in a prominent legal case in which he was convicted of exploiting elderly billionaire Liliane Bettencourt.
Shanna Besson is a French photographer and actress who started her acting career at age 10 when she played a girl forced into acting by her mother in I'm an Actress, which marked the directorial debut of Besson's mother Maïwenn. Besson later established a career in film-making, working with her parents as a still photographer in films like Taken 2.
André Weinfeld is a TV and film producer, cinematographer, director, screenwriter, journalist, and photographer. In addition to covering the rock and roll and pop scenes of the 1960s and 1970s, André Weinfeld also worked as a war correspondent, covering wars such as the Six-Day War, Vietnam War, and the Yom Kippur War.
Nadar was a French caricaturist, photographer, novelist, journalist, and balloonist who championed heavier-than-air flight. Nadar became the first photographer to take aerial photographs in 1858. His photographic portraits are preserved by several museums and institutions.
Catherine Leroy was a French-born American war photographer and photojournalist. She is best remembered for capturing scenes from the Vietnam War which appeared in major publications like Life magazine. Over the course of her illustrious career, Catherine Leroy won several prestigious awards, such as the George Polk Award in Journalism and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.
Albert Spaggiari was a French criminal best remembered for organizing an infamous break-in into the Société Générale bank in July 1976 in France. Spaggiari remained free after evading arrest during his case hearings. Albert Spaggiari remains a popular figure and has been referenced in many films, such as The Great Riviera Bank Robbery and Les égouts du paradis.
Étienne-Jules Marey was a French scientist, chronophotographer, and physiologist. He is best remembered for his work which played a major role in the development of physical instrumentation, cardiology, cinematography, aviation, and the science of laboratory photography. Étienne-Jules Marey is widely regarded as a pioneer of photography.
Andreas Feininger was one of the world's most prolific photographers. He was well known for his black-and-white photographic explorations of the urban landscape. Feininger's subject matter included the city, machines, and sculpture, and he rarely captured people or portraits. He was also a prolific writer and theorist and published over 30 books on photography.
Gisèle Freund was a German-born French photojournalist and photographer best remembered for her portraits of artists and writers and documentary photography. Throughout her career, Gisèle Freund was honored with several prestigious awards like the German Society's cultural photography prize and Grand prix national des Arts pour la Photographie. She also served as the president of the French Association of Photographers.
Best known for his photographs and installations, Jean-Marc Bustamante had begun his career as an assistant to photographer William Klein. One of his most famous series was Something is Missing. He also produced countless projects with French sculptor Bernard Bazile, as the duo Bazile Bustamante.
Auguste Lumière was a French engineer, illusionist, industrialist, and biologist. Alongside his brother Louis Jean Lumière, Auguste is credited with inventing a projection device and animated photographic camera called the cinematograph, which attracted worldwide acclaim. He is also remembered for his innovations in military aircraft and his pioneering work in the use of X-rays.
Medardo Rosso was an Italian sculptor and a popular exponent of post-impressionism. Like many sculptors of his generation, Medardo Rosso had a studio in Paris, where he displayed his works and sold his sculptures to major collectors and museums. His works were also exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 1963.