The 10 masters of documentary photography
Documentary photography is one of the most fascinating branches of photography for many since it allows a certain scene, object or character to be perceived from the artist’s perspective. Throughout history, several have stood out in this art and each one with their own personal touch in each image capture.
Many connoisseurs of the subject consider that, among the types of photography, documentary photography is one of the most liberating. This may be because it is practiced in both urban and natural settings , as well as with living or inanimate protagonists.
In this sense, in this photographic genre it is common to find images that capture a particular moment charged with a certain energy managed to the photographer’s liking, so that a photo of very tall buildings in the middle of the city can be perceived as imposing, or fun when looking at a scene captured in a typical village party.
10 Famous Documentary Photographers
If you have been interested in meeting several of those who could be the best photographers in the world, in the following list you will find artists who stand out within the field for various reasons:
1. William Eggleston
Of American origin, Eggleston is part of the famous photographers for being one of the first to stand out with color images exhibited in art galleries. This led him to gain recognition to soon find himself the main artist in exhibitions at prestigious museums such as MOMA. He was recognized with several awards both during his lifetime and posthumously and has his own documentary released in August 2005.
2. Graciela Iturbide
In famous photographs it is common to find material by Graciela Iturbide, a Mexican artist of contemplative photography in which an intense connection with what is happening on the scene can be appreciated. She has obtained several distinctions that make her stand out as a prolific artist in the documentary field and also has a series of admirable exhibitions that allow us to appreciate her art from her particular point of view.
Bruce Davidson could be classified as one of the representatives of American urban documentary photography, and also one of the most recognized in the field. His passage through prestigious universities and studies related to the management of the camera and the various photographic techniques, have allowed him to stand out among others of his genre with a type of photography that plays a lot with the contrast and focus of the lens..
4. Sebastian Salgado
Originally from Brazil, Salgado is an active documentary photographer focused mainly on the social area, being known for producing images with a strong visual impact in which there are marked contrasts in black and white. He obtained knowledge and degrees at the University of Paris and also at the University of Sao Paulo, as well as being a member of the Academy of Fine Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
5. Elliott Erwitt
Although he was born in Paris, Erwitt is known as an American photographer. He was recognized for having provided services to important media outlets of the time, as well as for being a skillful camera artist and practicing a kind of photography that was subtle, but not devoid of message. This type of action at the time of presenting his work allows us to appreciate a lot of sensitivity in his technique, as well as the time spent waiting for the exact moment in which to press the camera shutter.
Ernest Cole is a photographer of South African origin who stood out in the 1960s, when he worked as a freelancer for magazines and newspapers in his country. To this date, that made him the first black freelance photographer in all of South Africa. From this, doors will open for Cole to perform his art in many parts of the world. His style was characterized by portraying the reality of the daily life of South Africans at that time, whether within the family, urban, social or work environment, highlighting the shortcomings that many of the inhabitants experienced in their day to day life.
7. Dorothea Lange
Born in New Jersey, United States, Dorothea Lange would obtain tutoring and knowledge in photography from the well-known professor Clarence Hudson White. After gaining experience, she opened her own photography studio in the city of San Francisco. However, with the arrival of the Great Depression in 1929, Ella Lange would decide to change her approach to a more urban one, portraying in harsh scenes the consequences of the financial collapse that marked an era. Her most recognized work is precisely a documentary in which she, with the help of her husband, managed to obtain testimonies and experiences with images of what it was like to live in the United States during those years.
Evans is a free-focus photographer who is known for working with everyday scenes and objects, as he believes that true beauty is found in the simple things. Born on November 3, 1903 and died on April 10, 1975, this American photographer left a legacy of images that catalog him within the list of icons of the modern world. His work experience highlights his collaborations with magazines of the likes of Fortune and Time.
9. David Goldblatt
Goldblatt was one of the photographers who managed to portray what the apartheid era was like in South Africa, that is, the racial segregation that the country suffered as a result of population control. He was one of the first South African artists to exhibit his work at the MOMA in New York City, as well as at the MACBA in Barcelona, becoming listed as one of the great photographers in history.
10. Boris Mikhailov
Of Ukrainian origin, Boris Mikhailov stood out for having used coloring techniques and staging; which was not common for the time. Likewise, his subtle style of framing the era of the Soviet Union in conceptual photography allows us to perceive the essence of those years from the personal perspective of the artist involved.
As you can see, documentary photographers have existed practically since the beginning of photography itself and are not easily pigeonholed due to the freedom that exists in the practice of this style when handling digital cameras. Therefore, if you have been interested in practicing conceptual photography, do not think about it too much and go out to capture snapshots of anything that seems interesting to you; your instinct will do the rest.