Tag Archives: Photography

Listening to Black Voices: The African-American Artists List

One of the downsides of meta-lists is that they tend to be conservative. To a certain extent, they confirm the conventional wisdom and perpetuate the status quo. “Best of” meta-lists, which combine the results of multiple lists from different sources, focus on the consensus: what most people can agree on, not the controversial, the outliers, those that push the envelope.  In the case of the lists of best artists and best artworks, the meta-lists tend to confirm the stereotype that nearly all the great artists were male and white.

But these lists don’t tell the whole story.  Great artists come from all backgrounds, ethnicities and genders.  And every artist tells a different story, presents an individual viewpoint, even as they (as all artists) absorb or react to their culture, environment and historical context.  By ignoring these voices, the standard “best of” lists tend to marginalize the marginalized, and oppress the oppressed.

I recently created a new meta-list of the best African-American artists: Best African-American Artists of All Time.  The 23 artists on at least three of the original source lists are featured, along with images of their work.  These men and women range throughout the entire history of the United States – the earliest was born in the 1760s and the youngest was born in 1977. They provide an important counterbalance to the narratives and visual styles of white artists.  You may recognize some of the names on the list, but some of them may be new to you.  Most of them were new to me.  In order to make a better world, we need to listen to each other’s voices, as expressed in words, music, and, here, in the visual arts.

If you want to go even deeper into the story of African-American art, check out these other names of artists who were listed on two of the original source lists:
– Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968)
– Sargent Claude Johnson (1888-1967)
– Beauford Delaney (1901- 1979)
– Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998)
– Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012)
– Roy DeCarava (1919-2009)
– Betye Saar (1926- )
– Bob Thompson (1937-1966)
– Martin Puryear (1941- )
– Howardena Pindell (1943- )
– Barkley Hendricks (1945-2017)
– Glenn Ligon (1960- )

Take A Picture, It’ll Last Longer: The Photography Lists

After making lists of best paintings and sculptures, and best architecture, the logical next list was best photography.  But making meta-lists of the best photographs and best photographers of all time proved to be quite a challenge.  The problem, from a listers’ standpoint, was that the art of photography is splintered into a number of styles or genres, which exist somewhat independently of one another.  Photojournalists have the Pulitzer Prize and the World Press Photo awards and most lists of “best photos” focus on their work (Robert Capa’s Dying Loyalist Soldier being the classic example).  Then there are the historians, who focus on firsts – first true photo, first self-portrait, first color photo, etc.  Street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Helen Levitt are often lumped in with photojournalists, but are quite distinct.  There are landscape photographers, nature photographers and wildlife photographers, although often these categories overlap.  Portrait photography and fashion photography, while distinct, may also overlap.  Fashion photography is also a sub-genre of commercial photography in that both are trying to sell something (other than prints of the photo – in that sense all professional photography is commercial).  Finally, there is art, or fine art photography.  Many of the photographs in this genre overlap with one or more of the other genres, but there are some, like Man Ray’s Rayographs or Jeff Wall’s tableaux, that are unique.  Because I wanted to make a list that covered as many categories of photography as possible, I had to look for the best photos by looking beyond lists to try and determine which photographs were the most highly regarded.

The result, I am glad to say, is a ‘best photography’ list that includes fine art photography, photojournalism, street photography, nature, landscape and wildlife photography, portrait photography, fashion photography and sports photography.  Nearly every renowned photographer is represented, as are many familiar images.  But there will also be names most do not recognize and photos you’ve never seen before.

In this post, I’ve included two lists of ‘best photographers’ (see below).  The two big photography lists can be found here:
Best Photography of All Time: Part I – 1826-1945
Best Photography of All Time; Part II – 1946-2011

Here are two lists of best photographers that I compiled from a number of different lists.  This first is the top dozen photographers and the second is a longer list, organized chronologically. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of lists containing the photographer’s name.

Top Photographers of All Time
1. Henri Cartier-Bresson (France; 1908-2004)
2. Annie Leibovitz (US; 1949- )
3. Ansel Adams (US; 1902-1984)
4. Dorothea Lange (US; 1895-1965)
5. Yousuf Karsh (Armenia/Canada; 1908-2002)
6. Robert Capa (Hungary; 1913-1954)
7. Irving Penn (US; 1917- 2009)
8. Cecil Beaton (UK; 1904-1980)
9. Diane Arbus (US; 1923-1971)
10. Richard Avedon (US; 1923-2004)
11. Robert Frank (Switzerland/US; 1924- )
12. Steve McCurry (US; 1950- )

Best Photographers of All Time: Chronological
Julia Margaret Cameron (UK; 1815-1879) (4)
Roger Fenton (UK; 1819-1869) (3)
Alfred Stieglitz (US; 1864-1946) (6)
August Sander (Germany; 1876-1964) (3)
Edward Steichen (Luxembourg/US; 1879-1973) (4)
Edward Weston (US; 1886-1958) (5)
Man Ray (US/France; 1890-1976) (4)
Paul Strand (US; 1890-1976) (3)
Andre Kertész (Hungary/France/US; 1894-1985) (5)
Dorothea Lange (US; 1895-1965) (9)
Brassaï (Hungary/France; 1899-1984) (5)
Ansel Adams (US; 1902-1984) (10)
Walker Evans (US; 1903-1975) (5)
Cecil Beaton (UK; 1904-1980) (7)
Philippe Halsman (Latvia/US; 1906-1979) (4)
Horst P. Horst (Germany/US; 1906-1999) (4)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (France; 1908-2004) (12)
Yousuf Karsh (Armenia/Canada; 1908-2002) (8)
Robert Doisneau (France; 1912-1994) (5)
Eve Arnold (US; 1912-2012) (4)
Robert Capa (Hungary; 1913-1954) (8)
Helen Levitt (US; 1913-2009) (3)
Irving Penn (US; 1917- 2009) (8)
W. Eugene Smith (US; 1918-1978) (5)
Helmut Newton (Germany/Australia/UK/France/US; 1920-2004) (5)
Diane Arbus (US; 1923-1971) (7)
Richard Avedon (US; 1923-2004) (7)
Robert Frank (Switzerland/US; 1924- ) (7)
Garry Winogrand (US; 1928-1984) (3)
Elliott Erwitt (France/US; 1928- ) (3)
Jay Maisel (US; 1931- ) (3)
Brian Duffy (UK; 1933- ) (4)
Jerry Uelsmann (US; 1934- ) (3)
Don McCullin (UK; 1935- ) (3)
Philip Jones Griffiths (UK; 1936-2008) (3)
David Bailey (UK; 1938- ) (4)
William Eggleston (US; 1939- ) (4)
Mary Ellen Mark (US; 1940- ) (6)
Patrick Demarchelier (France; 1943- ) (3)
Sebastião Salgado (Brazil; 1944- ) (6)
Robert Mapplethorpe (US; 1946-1989) (4)
James Nachtwey (US; 1948- ) (6)
Annie Leibovitz (US; 1949- ) (12)
Steve McCurry (US; 1950- ) (7)
Art Wolfe (US; 1951- ) (3)
Frans Lanting (Netherlands/US; 1951- ) (3)
Herb Ritts (US; 1952-2002) (4)
Martin Parr (UK; 1952- ) (3)
Nan Goldin (US; 1953- ) (3)
Cindy Sherman (US; 1954- ) (6)
Mario Testino (Peru/US; 1954- ) (4)
Steven Meisel (US; 1954- ) (3)
Ellen von Unwerth (Germany; 1954- ) (3)
Nick Knight (UK; 1958- ) (4)
David LaChapelle (US; 1963- ) (5)

Here, again, are the best photos lists:
Best Photography of All Time: Part I – 1826-1945
Best Photography of All Time; Part II – 1946-2011