World Photography Day 2021: 5 Iconic Artists

World Photography Day 2021: 5 Iconic Artists

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World Photography Day 2021: 5 Iconic Artists
Words by Mirabella Shahidullah
August 19, 2021

A visual reference to our history, World Photography Day is the moment where we acknowledge the art form’s distinctive presence throughout history, culture and craft. Though many photographers are known for their work behind the camera, with decades of internationally recognized images and talent, some visual artists have become icons in their own rite.

From capturing instances of fashion and film to historical civil rights moments and people from marginalized communities, we explore how these 5 photographers have influenced and defined the visual medium as it exists today.

Beyond the Lens

Helmut Newton

“My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse and entertain.”
― Helmut Newton

German-Austrian photographer Helmut Newton’s images are instantly recognizable. With his black and white images, Newton reimagined post-war glamour for major fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Newton’s provocative and decadent images helped cultivate an era of excess for high fashion media after decades of restrictions. Controversial at times due to his mainstream depiction of nudity, eroticism and the female form, Newton’s work imbued a newfound freedom and fearlessness into mainstream fashion photography.

Richard Avedon

“I think all art is about control – the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.”
– Richard Avedon

From 1945, the work of Richard Avedon was widespread in the biggest American fashion publications of the time. For decades, his captivating images were mainstays in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.Moving away from traditional fashion photography which was often very staged and static, Avedon’s images captured movement, emotion and action which at the time was revolutionary, especially for advertising.

Avedon also transcended fashion photography, and his powerful political portraiture has been said to define American culture for half a century. His portrait photography captured historical moments and subjects in America at the time including the Kennedy family, Malcolm X, Bob Dylan and the Chicago 7.

Annie Leibovitz

“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”
― Annie Leibovitz

From her definitive beginnings at Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 to her current work at Vogue and Vanity Fair, Leibovitz’s photography has been recognizable for more than 5 decades for its dark tonal contrasts, use of props and engaging portraiture.

Influenced by celebrity culture, Leibovitz’s strong use of color and movement capture a contemporary essence of society at large.

Diane Arbus

“A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.”
― Diane Arbus

An American photographer of Russian origins, Arbus’s work focused on people on the fringes of society. Fascinated by self-creation and identity, Arbus reimagined what was acceptable or appropriate to capture, and by consequence her photographs reveal a sense of the deeply intimate and intensely personal.

Rather than objectifying her subjects, Arbus befriended the people she photographed, revealing a particular closeness between observer and subject through her exploration of American subcultures, communities and marginalized groups.

Cindy Sherman

“Everyone thinks these are self-portraits but they aren’t meant to be. I just use myself as a model because I know I can push myself to extremes, make each shot as ugly or goofy or silly as possible.”
– Cindy Sherman
Untitled #611, Cindy Sherman, 2019.
Untitled #611, Cindy Sherman, 2019.

Since the 70s, Cindy Sherman has amazed international audiences with her highly thematized depictions and explorations of gender, identity, exhibitionism and celebrity culture.    Throughout her career, Sherman has often depicted herself as the subject in her photography. With a cinematic use of props and makeup, Sherman is an artist in transformation, succeeding in creating her own stylized universe and a social commentary of self-image in the process.

Inspired by the art