written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 5/18/2011
The following is a list of famous black and white photographers. Learn more about each - particularly what was exceptional about the images they captured.
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There are many styles and ways of thinking in the world of photography. A particular set of photographers made their fortune and captured their fame through their work with black and white photography. Here are 5 of the most famous black and white photographers and a description of why they are considered the best of the best in this field.
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Ansel Adams was born on February 20, 1902 in San Francisco, California, USA. He quit school and was instead educated by private tutors. Part of his informal education included trips to the Panama-Pacific Exposition, where he developed an interest in the arts. He became a pianist but eventually, he decided on a career in photography. He spent most of his adult life committed to taking photographs of landscapes and lifestyle pieces. He died on April 22, 1984 because of heart failure.
His most famous works involve the wilderness, national parks and all kinds of landscapes. He did not just take great black and white photos of landscapes, he also worked to keep the public aware of the need for nature conservation. He furthered this goal by teaching photography and founding a photographic art department at New York City's Museum of Modern Art.
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Margaret Bourke-White was born on June 14, 1904 in New York City, New York, USA. After developing an interest in photography while she was studying at Cornell University, she took up formal classes in photography at Columbia University. She focused on architectural photography and opened her very own studio in Cleveland, Ohio. She eventually became a a staff photographer for Fortune magazine, and after that, Life magazine. Being a war correspondent for Life magazine, she took great interest in politics. She took many great photos during World War II and the Korean War.
Being a strong supporter of different social causes, her most famous works involved the humanity of people involved in the wars she has covered, focusing on the human element instead of the carnage caused. She also gained attention by capturing moments in different kinds of political and social rallies and movements like Gandhi's campaign against racial inequality in India and apartheid in South Africa. She ended her career as a writer for Life magazine, succumbing to complications from an injury that was caused by Parkinson's Disease on August 21, 1971.
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Diane Arbus was born Diane Nemerov on March 14, 1923 in New York City, New York, USA. Her creative talents emerged early on in her life, but she took an interest in photography much later. As a young girl in high school, she often made drawings and paintings. She didn't start taking up the art of photography until after she married her husband, who taught her the necessary skills. Eventually, she was confident enough to take professional photography jobs with her husband in the fields of fashion and advertising.
She developed a style that can be described as creepy and eerie, often featuring unusual subjects. These offbeat subjects included morgues, seedy hotels and public parks. It was not just her knack for taking photos of unusual scenes and moments that catapulted her to fame and recognition, it was also about her drive to get the particular shot that she has in her mind. She was infamous for doing anything and everything she could to get a particular shot. Her dark style was some sort of a herald to her dark future. She ended her life inside her New York apartment on July 26, 1971 after suffering through depression that was caused by the end of her marriage.
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Berenice Abbott was born on July 17, 1898 in Springfield, Ohio, USA. She spent her childhood in a broken family, eventually moving to New York with a couple of friends to build a new life. She was involved in theater when not working odd jobs to support herself. Berenice moved to Paris during the prohibition, and there, she became a darkroom assistant for modernist artist Man Ray in Paris. She eventually got into photography herself, and in time, she rivaled her employer's fame.
When she went back to New York, she was already an established photographer who focused on realism, spontaneity and naturalness. She fell in love with the new New York skyscrapers and decided to move back. It was her photographs of bustling New York City that established her fame and made her one of the pillars of modern art.
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Henri Cartier-Bresson was born on August 22, 1908. His claim to fame as one of the most famous black and white photographers is his candid style of photography. The spontaneity seen in his photos was one of the things that helped in establishing the field of photojournalism as a form of art, influencing generations of photojournalists. He complemented his photography with his ability to write stirring descriptions of his photos.