Here’s a curated list of the most famous black and white photographers from the past and present.
Each photographer uses predominantly black and white film to capture iconic images.
Black and white photography gives a feeling of nostalgia.
It omits colours that may distract the eye, emphasising the subject and environment.
Let’s take a closer look at the best black-and-white photographers of our time.
You may also enjoy our list of black-and-white photography quotes and captions.
Table of Contents
Who are the most famous black and white photographers?
Stanko Abadžić is a Croatian photographer famous for capturing everyday life in Croatia.
He started his career in fine art photography during his youth because of his curiosity and admiration for visual arts.
Like many, Abadžić had no formal lessons about taking black and white photos.
Despite that, he was able to produce famous photographs like “The Flute Player,” “Mother and Child,” and “The Fisherman at Dawn.”
Ansel Adams (1902–1984)
Ansel Adams was an American photographer who started pursuing the craft during his teenage years.
He was famous for his landscape photography, capturing natural parks and areas like the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite National Park.
His well-known famous photographs include “Monolith, The Face of Half Dome,” and “Sand Dunes, Sunrise.”
Because of his passion, he also got connected with prominent people like Richard Nixon, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir.
Matt Black is a famous American photographer who captured black and white photos relating to poverty, migration, and inequality.
His images show deep stories about the socio-economic issues, capturing the hearts of his audience.
Black’s notable work also includes capturing the migrants from Mexico and Central America traveling to the United States in search of better lives.
Bruno Bourel is a French photographer based in Budapest.
He began his photography career with a Polaroid camera, capturing the raw and unfiltered emotions of his every subject.
As his passion and skills improved, he transitioned to a Leica camera, which he considered his third eye exploring through a monochromatic lens.
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This allowed him to create timeless black and white portraits.
Dirk Braeckman is a Belgian photographer with an enigmatic and evocative style.
His works are highly regarded and exhibited in numerous galleries and museums worldwide.
He was the representative of Belgium at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017, featuring his work “SƧƎЯЯA.”
He was also included in a prestigious exhibit in Germany called Documenta, which only happens every five years.
Dirk Braeckman has remarkably made an imprint because of his ability to combine poetry and emotional depth in his photographs.
Jane Bown (1925–2014)
Jane Brown was one of the most famous 20th-century portrait photographers.
She studied at Guilford College in the 1940s and received her first-ever commission with The Observer in 1949 for photographing Bertrand Russel.
Brown has proven that she is more than just a woman in her chosen field as she was awarded CBE (Commander of the Order of The British Empire) for her contribution to the photography industry in 1985.
Édouard Boubat (1923–1999)
Édouard Boubat was a French photojournalist and art photographer focusing on a humanistic approach, showcasing everyday lives and movements.
It was after World War II that he started his craft in photography with a Rolleiflex.
Even now, he remains one of the most famous black and white photographers.
Elliott Erwitt’s diverse body of work and stunning play with white photography is notable in how he infused humor and wit in his images.
He is known for photographing celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly.
Thomas Farkas (1924–2011)
Brazilian photographer Thomas Farkas was part of Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB), an outstanding cinema and photography club in Brazil promoting black and white photography.
This sharpened his skills in fine art photography, showing his visual storytelling about the cultural heritage of Brazil.
What made Farkas different from other black and white photographers is that he focused on where he was born-Brazil and helped preserve its culture through his photographs.
Leonard Freed (1929–2006)
Leonard Freed is an American photojournalist known for his contribution to documenting the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the US.
His black and white photography themes fall on social issues and street documentation.
Freed covered several momentous social events in the US and internationally.
Freed’s photographs are not just images in galleries and museums but powerful photos that tell the story of history in the 20th century.
Robert Frank (1924–2019)
Swiss-American photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank was best known for using high-contrast, grainy imagery with spontaneous composition, producing a unique work of art.
The photo book “The Americans” was a collection of black and white photos he took during his cross-cultural trip to the US in the 1950s, showing the candid diversity of the country and is one of his notable projects.
Fan Ho (1931–2016)
Master photographer Fan Ho has been known for his Hong Kong Street photography since the 1950s.
Because of his black and white photographs, people have seen how much Hong Kong has changed.
Ed Kashi is a visual artist, documentarist, and photojournalist covering social and humanitarian issues.
He received several awards documenting topics about the environment, human rights, and the conflicts in marginalized communities.
He has contributed to various famous publications like The New York Times Magazine, Time, and National Geographic, with his work raising awareness of global issues.
Michael Kenna is among the most famous black and white photographers of the last 50 years.
His minimalist style features long-exposure landscapes in square formats. Images that convey tranquillity, serenity, and stillness.
Herbert List (1903–1975)
Herbert List was a German photographer who had art and intellect combined in his works, including geometry and design, in capturing photos.
His works are also inspired by Greek culture and mythology, and allowed him to create these famous photographs: “Greek Shepherd,” “Trio, Greece,” and “Fugitive, Portugal.”
Daidō Moriyama is a Japanese photographer known for being a key contributor to the Japanese magazine Provoke.
He started as an assistant photographer to Eikoh Hosoe and later made a mark after publishing his first photobook, “Japan: A Photo Theater,” in 1968.
He continues to have an influence on photography, portraying human lives and urban landscapes.
Sally Mann is an American photographer who focused his work theme in the American South.
Her famous series, “Immediate Family,” became controversial because of the depiction of childhood and nudity.
Even then, she remains famous in black and white photography as his photos continue to amaze audiences with memory and the passage of time.
John Dominis (1921–2013)
John Dominis was a well-known American photojournalist, sports photographer, and documentarist.
He worked for a long time with Life Magazine, receiving several recognitions.
One of the many things he made was to consolidate his photographs for a 300-page photobook entitled “Guiliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy.”
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989)
Robert Mapplethorpe was an American photographer who focused on sexuality, gender, nudity, and beauty.
He was known for his “floral still lifes,” where he captures the beauty and sensuality of flowers through black and white imagery.
Peter Marlow (1952–2016)
Peter Marlow is a British photographer and member of the Magnum Photos Agency.
His expertise includes humanitarian crises such as the conflict in the Balkans and the Rwandan genocide aftermath.
Marlow’s beautiful images showcase the suffering and resilience of people during those challenging times.
Pedro Luis Raota (1934–1986)
An Argentine photographer, Pedro Luis Raota, was known for his powerful black and white photographs.
He’s the type who is able to perfectly show his subject’s emotions through the images he captures.
His works revolved around photos capturing the daily lives in Argentina.
He also documented the cultural and social aspects of his country.
Pentti Sammallahti is one of the most respected black and white photographers in Finland.
His work revolves around nature, the wild, and the beauty of landscapes, where he injects poetic elements into his shots.
This paved the way for him to be recognized and awarded during the Sony World Photography Awards.
Ferdinando Scianna is an Italian photographer who covered a wide range of subjects, from daily life and social issues to cultural traditions. He also took up fashion photography.
His most remembered projects were “La Plaza de Mayo” and “Sicily.” For Scianna, photographs are not created by photographers, they just opened the window and captured it.
Toni Schneiders (1920–2006)
Toni Schneiders was a German photographer who made a significant contribution to photography in Germany.
He traveled and captured serene landscapes, street scenes, encounters with people, and differences in cultures.
Because of his humanistic approach and the ability to display stories through photographs, Schneiders was awarded by the German Society for Photography.
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Enzo Sellerio (1924–2012)
Enzo Sellerio was an Italian photographer who focused on filming and documenting the island of Sicily.
Like many black and white photographers, Sellerio loved connecting with humans, and learning about their daily lives.
In his documentation of the Sicilian life, he also covered religious practices, rituals, and festivals.
Beauford Smith is an African-American self-taught photographer.
He focuses on capturing African-American experiences, social justice, and civil rights issues.
He took part in protests and demonstrations on fighting for human and social rights, and mastered the art of taking images that show people’s raw strength and resilience.
Christer Strömholm (1918–2002)
Christer Strömholm was a Swedish photographer who was highly recognized for his portraiture and street photography.
His most famous series was “Les Amies de Place Blanche,” capturing the transgenders of Paris.
Until his last years, he mentored and taught young photographers to pass on his knowledge and skills.
Larry Towell is a Canadian photographer and photojournalist. He was the first Canadian photographer to be associated with Magnum Photos Agency.
His love for photography and poetry enabled him to send entries of photo essays to The New York Times, The Rolling Stones, and other magazines.
His photography themes included human crises, rural life, and even covering conflict zones.
Eduardo Teixeira Pinto (1933–2009)
Eduardo Teixeira Pinto was a Portuguese photographer and exhibitor who took his love for photography from his father, who was also a photographer.
He was an active member of various photography communities and had always focused on themes like nature and human figures.
Francesca Woodman (1958–1981)
Francesca Woodman was an American photographer who focused on gender, personal identity, and the human body.
Most of her photos show her own body, captured using reflective resources such as a mirror or sometimes half-hidden, which gives the photos a dreamlike quality or ghostly presence.
Though her life was cut short at the age of 22, her famous photographs continue to inspire and be admired.
Miron Zownir is a famous German street photographer known for his unconventional style of black-and-white photography.
He’s the type that challenges the norm. Much of his work covers the Berlin Nightlife, showcasing the extremes and the energy of the city. His works will be remembered for his unapologetic images in photography.
Tammy Danan is a freelance storyteller and the founder of Moss Content Studio. She’s a highly visual person who loves exploring how the art of photography intersects with our everyday lives.