black-photographers

12 Famous Black Photographers You Should Know in 2023

Discover the most famous black photographers from the past who shaped American history and from the present who dazzle us with their creativity.

By Jeff Collier

In today’s fast-paced digital world, we constantly consume photos and videos via social media.

While many of us explore photos based on specific hashtags or shared interests, we probably couldn’t list off the photographers who captured them.

Most of us are familiar with photography pioneers such as Ansel Adams and Fox Talbot, but what about the black photographers of the past and present? 

In this article, we’ll cover 12 of the most famous black photographers around the world you should know about in 2023 with a high-level overview of their ground-breaking work.

Who Are The Most Famous Black Photographers of Our Generation?

1. Gordon Parks 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Gordon Parks (@gordon_parks7)

 

Hailing from Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Parks was born in 1912 as the youngest of a whopping 15 children. Having attended a segregated school, Gordon Parks experienced social and racial discrimination firsthand, which greatly impacted his work as a photographer.

Inspired after seeing moving photos of migrant workers, Parks taught himself to master photography and soon began contributing photographic essays that unveiled the hardships of African Americans.

Parks’ artistic eye and innate talent allowed him to bounce from the glamour of fashion photography to the engaging nature of government and civic photography with ease.

This diverse background gave him the opportunity to showcase his remarkable set of skills and photographic interests in prestigious magazines such as Vogue and Life Magazine.

During his time at Life Magazine, he captured a variety of iconic images of legendary subjects that included Barbara Streisand, Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X.

His inventive work earned him the well-deserved title of Photographer of the Year in 1960.

2. Ornelle Chimi

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ornelle Chimi (@ornelle.c)

Coming from Douala, Cameroon, Ornelle Chimi is one of the most renowned portrait and fashion photographers of our time.

Currently based in Washington, D.C., Chimi’s magnificent Instagram profile contains breathtaking, unadulterated shots that artistically highlight women of color in a way any photographer would envy.

Though her portfolio primarily focuses on women of color, you’ll also get the occasional glimpse of men in high-fashion settings.

An array of vivid, full-color shots and black-and-white photos tell an intriguing story that leaves the viewer yearning to learn more.

Whether it’s an alluring boudoir shot or a serene moment on the beach, every woman-focused photo you come across will have you eager to explore further.

And don’t just take our word for it — Chimi’s talent and energy have earned her a place in legendary publications, which include Vogue Italia, Nylon and New York Magazine

3. Lorna Simpson

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by @lornasimpson

 

Lorna Simpson is another famous black photographer known for her multimedia exhibitions and profoundly moving photography.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960, she achieved her Master’s degree in Fine Art and began using her talent and perspective to capture underrepresented people in her art: black women.

Known for being one of the early members of the conceptual photography movement, Simpson made it her mission to challenge stereotypical, outdated views on gender, race and identity, which is epitomized in her work.

Currently based in Brooklyn, Simpson’s Insta profile is a lovely mix of shots that highlight daughter and fellow artist, Zora, as well as African American history and the work of fellow black artists.

And if you explore her website, you’ll see a wide range of work that covers a variety of mediums, including sculptures, collages, drawings, photography and more.

4. Ming Smith

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ming Smith (@mingsmithphoto)

 

Born in the diverse city of Detroit, Michigan, Ming Smith is undoubtedly one of the most important need-to-know photographers in 2023.

After getting work that depicted family life in Harlem prominently displayed in the Museum of Modern Art, Smith began taking photos of iconic black women.

Her documentary-style images captured everyone from Grace Jones and Nina Simon to more recent shots of Amy Sherald.

Smith recently graced the cover of Elephant, a publication that strives to bring depth and energy to the contemporary art scene.

With each scroll of Smith’s striking Instagram account, you’ll slowly uncover a variety of artistic techniques grounded in surrealism.

Whether you’re appreciating the subject who’s slightly out of focus or the unique angles that illustrate tasteful shadowing work, you’ll fall in love with the insane talent and individuality shown in each square.

5. Tiffany J. Sutton

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Tiff J Sutton (@tiffanyjoy1955)

 

Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Tiffany J. Sutton is another photographer serving up captivating shots exclusively spotlighting black women.

Sutton began photographing black women as a way to get reacquainted with her culture and was honored to be named the winner of a substantial grant from Nikon and the Black Women Photographers collective.

Starting with her parents as subjects in the early 2000s, Sutton’s early photography was intended to showcase the black family and black life in American culture.

Specializing in abstract portraits, Sutton’s work explores themes such as self-identity, the black gaze and dual perception with a twist that leaves viewers curious and eager to discover more.

Leveraging various exposures to unveil the complexity of her subjects, Sutton’s IG profile simultaneously captures the beauty of each individual while infusing a Jackson Pollock flair.

And be sure to check out her website as well, which has a lot of what’s on her Insta broken up by collections.

6. Johhny Pitts

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Johny Pitts (@johnymodern)

 

While there is no shortage of breathtaking work coming from black women, we can’t overlook the black men contributing to the best photography of our generation — starting with Johnny Pitts.

Proudly coming from a mixed-race background, Pitts is a well-known writer, TV presenter and photographer based in the U.K. whose images focus on crucial elements such as the environment, politics, culture and travel.

Pitts’ images on Instagram highlight everything from symbolic balloon festivals in Japan to black climate activists in Glasgow with an underlying theme rooted in intentionally spotlighting places and events where black people are underrepresented.

Upon scrolling his IG, you’ll also see a few brilliant book recommendations for aspiring photographers, as well as several adorable throwbacks from his childhood.

And if you visit Pitts’ website, you’ll see his profoundly moving photography broken up into collections, including his most famous one, Afropean, which is also the name of a website he founded to amplify the voices of black people in Europe.

7. Temi Lawson

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Temi Lawson (@temilawson)

 

Rooted in Houston, Texas, Temi Lawson’s digital and film photography has gone beyond her clients in advertising — her captivating photos have been featured in notable publications such as Vogue, Forbes and WIRED, to name a few.

With an impressive portfolio that highlights portrait photography, Lawson’s work is rich with colors, shapes and shadows, with each photo bringing a different artistic mood and vision to life.

Proudly declaring that street style thrives beyond New York City, the colorful urban life and wardrobes and diverse scenery captured in Lawson’s photos prove her point.

Featuring a unique mix of crisp, high-fashion shots and abstract portraits, Lawson’s IG grid is truly a treat for the eyes.

With a diverse portfolio that includes models of various races, genders and ages, you’ll be mesmerized by the unique beauty and story captured with each scroll.

Lawson’s impressive collection of IG photos is also housed on her website, where you can sort by collections, including her legendary work showcasing Dallas’ renowned street style.

8. Campbell Addy

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by CAMPBELLADDY 👁️ (@campbelladdy)

 

The authentic expressions and vivid stories told in Campbell Addy’s photography make him another remarkable photographer worth exploring.

Based in London, Addy’s background includes impressive collaborations with Time, Vogue and Rolling Stone, among others, and with one glance at his Instagram grid, you’ll quickly see why.

With an IG profile full of diverse faces and exceptionally beautiful settings, you’ll be drawn in more with each scroll.

His portfolio embodies an intriguing blend of haute couture photography and stare-worthy portraits that blurs the lines of gender norms.

A proud, self-proclaimed black queer, every photo in Addy’s diverse portfolio tells the unique narrative of each subject, which has included trending faces such as Kendell Jenner, Duchess Megan Markle and FKA Twigs, as well as several other influential black icons like Nadine Ijewere and Naomi Campbell.

9. Jamal Nxedlana

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Jamal Nxedlana (@jamalaun)

 

With an eclectic portfolio rich in themes of mass production, pop culture, race and identity, Jamal Nxedlana is another black photographer you should be familiar with.

A pillar in the South African arts community, Nxedlana’s Instagram grid is jam-packed with fun, funky images that come to life with a fresh, Afro-surrealist flavor.

Specializing in fashion and portrait photography, Nexdlana injects an abstract flair into his work — transforming regular images into exceptional photos rich with color, texture and movement.

His work has been both featured and praised in several publications, most recently in The New Black Vanguard, an exhibition and book examining the radical advances in modern-day art and fashion.

Outside of his IG photos, you can explore an array of photographic series on his website, which includes themes centered on Avatar, body image and more.

10. McKenzie James

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by McKenzie James (@mckjames)

With an Instagram profile that covers everything from sensual boudoir photography to honest black-and-white portraits, McKenzie James is another praiseworthy photographer with a must-see portfolio.

A proud African-Canadian, James has spearheaded a plethora of projects designed to celebrate the art and lives of queer Canadians, a sentiment that shines through in his risqué portraits intricately documenting each subject’s unique identity, personality and sexuality.

Straddling the fine line between fashion photography and glamour photography, James brings a fresh take to nude and semi-nude shots that feature a variety of body types and demographics.

James’ grid also includes a ton of astonishing landscape shots that emphasize Canada’s spectacular climate and serenity.

Regardless if you’re admiring his raw take on the human form, his elegant fashion photography or the stunning Canadian setting that surrounds him, you’ll be head over heels for James’ gaze-worthy images.

11. Michael Jalaru Torres

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Michael Jalaru Torres (@jalaruphotography)

 

Drawing inspiration from the one-of-a-kind settings of his homeland and his Aboriginal heritage, Michael Jalaru Torres is one of Australia’s best photographers.

Jalaru Torres is also the founder of Blaklens.com, a community dedicated to recognizing established and up-and-coming black creators.

Rooted in a strong belief that lighting should tell the story, a collection of crisp, clean images with impeccable composition makes up Jalaru Torres’ eye-catching Instagram account — where you’ll see everything from maternity photography among natural landmarks to Indigenous-focused fashion photography.

And if you want to explore further, head over to Jalaru Torres’ website to take in his immaculate portfolio, which includes everything from photography and video to fine art and graphic design.

Whether you explore Jalaru Torres’ website or take a quick peek at his IG, you’ll experience his strong sense of Indigenous Australian pride.

12. Cherry Archer

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Cherry Archer (@cherry_archer)

 

Based in Vancouver, Cherry Archer is one of the most famous ecology-based photographers in the world.

Specializing in ice tile photography, Archer’s Instagram grid is a magical wonderland full of creatures, plants and all things botanical.

With the intention of closely examining her relationship with nature with every shot, Archer’s photography invites viewers to do the same.

Her unique process begins in her garden — Archer seeks out her favorite plants, gives them a snip and incrementally freezes them in water to create ice tiles immersed in botanical beauty.

Archer then brightens the tiles with colorful lights, arranges her plants to her liking and photographs them.

The incredible assortment of textures and shapes captured in each of these tiles is truly a sight to behold, so it’s no wonder Archer is one of the most famous black photographers of our generation.

FAQs about black photographers

Who is the most famous black photographer?

There’s no right answer, but we’ll name a few of our favorites from the past and present below:

  • Gordon Parks — an icon in the history of black photography, Gordon Parks was a prominent photojournalist in the U.S. who is best known for his profoundly touching photos in Life Magazine that illustrated racial segregation.
  • Carrie Mae Weems — another cornerstone in black photography, Carrie Mae Weems is most known for her photographic series challenging traditional domestic and gender roles in a collection known as The Kitchen Table.
  • Temi Lawson — her colorful, inspiring fashion and portrait photography tinged with street style make her a no-brainer on the list of the most famous black photographers.

Who was the first black photographer?

There are several pioneers in black photography throughout the world. We’ll cover a few below:

  • James Van Der Zee and Gordon Parks — in the U.S., Van Der Zee and Parks were two of the first black photographers recorded. 
  • Vanley Burke — a British-Jamaican photographer noted for being one of the first in-demand black photographers in England.
  • Mervyn Bishop — Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer who later combined artistic and journalistic photography.

Who was the first female black photographer?

Again, this varies by region, but here are some of the first female black photographers on record:

  • Florestine Perrault Collins — born in the late 1800s, Collins is known for capturing African American subjects in New Orleans with the purpose of bringing a sense of sophistication and pride to the black community.
  • Jennie Louise Touissant Welcome — another pillar in the history of female black photographers, Welcome, along with her then-husband, were a power couple whose films and images are known for igniting the Harlem Renaissance.

Who is the best African photographer?

There are too many to name! But here are a couple of must-follows:

  • Nana Kofi Acquah — based in Ghana, Kofi Acquah is praised for his work celebrating the community and culture of Ghana while showcasing controversial gender norms.
  • Sarah Waiswa — based in Kenya and equipped with degrees in both psychology and sociology, Waiswa specializes in portrait and scenery photography that is intended to celebrate the New African Identity from an equally scholarly and curious lens.

Who are some famous black portrait photographers?

Many of the black photographers mentioned in this article are phenomenal portrait photographers, including:

  • Tiffany J. Sutton
  • Sarah Waiswa
  • McKenzie James
  • Gordon Parks
  • Ornelle Chimi

Final Words

Whether you’re a budding photographer looking to garner inspiration or simply trying to learn about black culture and black creators, there’s an extensive sea of black photographers you should be following and supporting.

And in doing so, you’ll be exposing yourself to different cultures around the world as well as taking one small step towards amplifying the voices and work of black creators.

Do you have any favorites to add to the list? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check our article on the most famous photographers who ever lived.

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jeffcollier
Shotkit Writer, Product Tester & Instagram Manager

Jeff Collier is an experienced film photographer who enjoys experimenting with modern digital photography equipment, software and apps. He’s also an ex-world champion triathlete and avid cyclist, clocking hundreds of km each week in the beautiful Tweed Valley of northern NSW, Australia.

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