It’s pretty easy for a big star to pick up a camera and start shooting. In the Instagram era there are no gatekeepers, and so any star can post their work online and say they’re now a professional photographer. But that doesn't mean their photography is actually any good.
There are some celebrities, however, for whom photography is not a fly-by-night flirtation but a lifelong passion for which they have a genuine talent. Here are 25 celebrities who truly can be described as serious photographers.
01. Jessica Lange
Best known for her roles in TV hits such as American Horror Story, actor Jessica Lange is also an accomplished photographer. She published her first photobook, 50 Photographs, in 2008, featuring 50 black-and-white studies of unknown people and far-away places. It was accompanied by an exhibition at George Eastman House, the photography museum in Rochester, New York, and Lange was presented with the first George Eastman House Honors Award the following year. Aperture magazine wrote: "Jessica's photographs very much reflect her personality. They are delicate, but powerful... loving, warm, and extremely poetic."
02. Jeff Bridges
A keen photographer since high school, movie star Jeff Bridges has been taking on-set photos since the 1980s using a Widelux camera, an odd little device that purposely lacks a shutter or viewfinder.
The camera's moving slit makes for panoramic images similar to that of a widescreen film, and even allows quick moving subjects to appear twice on the same negative. As a result, the image are not always perfectly defined, but capture an ineffable sense of verisimilitude.
At first Bridges, best known for his role in The Big Lebowski, would give out self-published collections of his photographs to cast and crew as gifts at the end of a shoot. Then in 2003 he released them as a photobook, Pictures, to great acclaim. He also sells prints of his work via The Rose Gallery.
03. Lenny Kravitz
It was his mother's black-and-white image of Martin Luther King Jr giving a speech that sparked rock star Lenny Kravitz’s love of photography as a child. This was a passion that he’s continued to develop throughout his life, but it wasn’t until he showed his work to the French fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino that he decided to make his work public.
Last year Kravitz saw his photography exhibited at the international art fair Art Basel and sold for prices ranging from $1,800 to $4,000 (all proceeds went to charity). Kravitz has also embarked on a collaboration with camera company Leica.
04. Tabitha Soren
A former reporter for MTV News, ABC News and NBC News, Tabitha Soren has carved out a second career as a fine art photographer.
After working in TV, including appearances in the video for '(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)' by the Beastie Boys and the film The Cable Guy, Soren spent a year studying art and photography at Stanford University.
She went on to find success with photography projects that have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Canteen, Vanity Fair, McSweeney's and Sports Illustrated, and added to the public collections of the LA Country Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Pier 24 Photography, Transformer Station in Ohio and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in Louisiana.
Last year, the Aperture Foundation published a selection of Soren's photographs, Fantasy Life, to accompany a major exhibition at San Francisco City Hall.
05. Norman Reedus
Actor Norman Reedus is an actor, TV host and model best known for zombie drama The Walking Dead. But long before he found fame, he’d been nurturing an passion for photography, which began when he took classes at junior high and high school.
Photography became a serious pursuit when he moved to LA in his early twenties and put on art shows with friends from Otis College of Art and Design. Reedus has continued develop his distinctive style, which revolves around the recurring theme of making the disturbing beautiful.
His work has been exhibited in Berlin, Hamburg, New York City, San Francisco, and LA; published in a limited edition collector’s volume titled The Sun’s Coming Up…Like a Big Bald Head (Authorscape 2013) and sold at auction at Sotheby’s.
06. Patti Smith
Best known as a singer who became a huge influence on the New York punk movement, Patti Smith was also the long-term roommate, partner and then wife of Robert Mapplethorpe, the late American photographer known for his studies, flowers and homoerotic nudes, and for being one of the first to make photography accepted as fine art. Their story of their life and work together is beautifully depicted in her 2011 book Just Kids.
Smith herself has also been making multidisciplinary art since the 1960s, including drawings, installations and photography. Following the death of her husband in 1994, she began working on what she terms "pure photography", a method of capturing still objects without using a flash).
Strange Messenger: The Work of Patti Smith, a three hundred-work retrospective, was organised by The Andy Warhol Museum in 2002 and travelled to numerous venues worldwide. She was most recently the subject of Camera Solo, a survey of her photographs organised by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (2011), which travelled to Detroit Institute of Arts (2012) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (2013), while in 2017 she curated a special exhibition at Paris Photo.
07. Andy Summers
Best known as the guitarist with The Police, Summers has been active as photographer since 1979 with numerous exhibitions, magazine essays, publications, and recently, keynote presentations of his photography.
He describes his work as a visual counterpart to his music, and likens his approach to tearing pages from a book and then reshuffling the results into a new visual syntax.
He’s had three photobooks published and his images have been on show in Paris, London, Tokyo, Montréal, New York City, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, Boston, and Las Vegas.
08. Viggo Mortensen
Danish-American Viggo Mortensen is practically the dictionary definition of a Renaissance man. An actor, producer, author, musician, poet, and painter, he’s also an accomplished photographer.
With part of his earnings from the Lord of the Rings movies, he founded the Perceval Press publishing house to help other artists, and he’s also published his own, highly regarded books featuring his own poetry, photography, and painting.
09. Graham Nash
Best known as a founding member of the rock band Crosby, Stills and Nash, Graham Nash has also had a parallel career as a photographer, collector, and pioneer of digital imaging.
His obsession began when he took a portrait of his mother aged 11, and his impressive body of work includes still lifes and landscapes, street photography, and a series of self-portraits that often show him reflected in windows and mirrors.
His first monograph, Eye to Eye, was published in 2004, and his photography has been exhibited worldwide. In 1990, he established Nash Editions, now one of the world’s top photographic printmaking houses, and recognised by the Smithsonian Institution for its role in the invention of digital fine art printing.
10. Henry Rollins
Best known as the muscular frontman for pioneering punk band Black Flag, Henry Rollins is also an actor, writer, television and radio host, and comedian. And in recent years, he’s began to expand his skillset into photography.
Many celebrities dabbling in the discipline are happy just documenting the parties they attend and the gigs they play. But Rollins doesn’t do things by halves. So instead, he travelled to a series of far-reaching and often dangerous places, including Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, to capture human stories with his lens.
The results were published in the 2011 book Occupants, which Wired magazine described as “an impressive collection built entirely out of Rollins' desire to expose readers to corners of the world they may otherwise never see."
11. Randy Johnson
Randall David Johnson is famed as one of the tallest players in major league baseball history, standing at 6 feet 10 inches. Since retiring from the game, he’s pursued a second career as a photographer.
It’s not a wholly new departure for the man dubbed ‘The Big Unit’ by sports fans; he’d previously majored in photojournalism while on on a baseball scholarship at USC in Los Angeles. Shooting “motorsports, concerts, people and places”, he’s since worked as a contributing photographer for publications include Stars And Stripes Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, Spin Magazine, Metal Hammer Magazine, Score Baseball Card Company and AOL Online. You can check out his impressive images here.
12. Bryan Adams
Possibly the most best-known celebrity for having a parallel career in photography, singer Bryan Adams works regularly as a pro shooter for magazines including Zoo, GQ, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Esquire, and brands such as Guess Jeans, Sand, Converse, Montblanc and Fred Perru.
In 2002, he was invited to photograph Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee, and one of these photographs was used as a Canadian postage stamp. His first monograph, Exposed, was released by Steidl in 2012, in 2015, he was given an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in London, and he’s won three Lead Awards in Germany for his fashion photography. We could list more of his achievements in the field, but you get the idea.
13. Kenny Rogers
Long-time readers of this website and our associated print magazine will be aware that country music legend Kenny Rogers is also a respected landscape photographer... not least because he was a judge for our Photographer of the Year competition in 2011.
An amateur photographer for most of his adult life, Rogers began turning his hobby into a profession by shooting his wife’s and wife’s friends modelling portfolios and developing his own film in his home-based darkroom. He went on to study with photographer John Sexton, who was once assistant to Ansel Adams.
He since has published three books of his work, including 2012's acclaimed American Beauty, which captured the diverse beauty of the USA, from remote Alaskan landscapes to the country’s national parks and waterways.
14. Helena Christensen
Helena Christensen became one of the world’s best known supermodels in the 1990s. In recent years, she’s transitioned into becoming a professional photographer.
Her images have appeared in Nylon, Marie Claire, and ELLE, and her first solo exhibition, People and Portraits, was held at London’s Proud Central Gallery in 2003. She’s also plouged a furrow into photojournalism, with work depicting the impact of climate change in Peru, in collaboration with Oxfam. She is represented as a photographer by Tomorrow Management.
15. Michael Stipe
R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe began taking pictures aged 15, and studied photography along with painting at the University of Georgia. He never lost his passion for the camera, and worked as tour photographer for Patti Smith in 1995, an experienced recorded in the photobook Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith.
Since R.E.M. disbanded in 2011, he has moved his focus back toward his love of art in a variety of media, from installations and sculpture to video and photography. Published this year, Volume 1 is the first in a series of publications presenting different aspects of Michael Stipe’s multifaceted artistic practice.
16. Chris Packham
A TV presenter on numerous UK wildlife shows, Chris Packham has also had a parallel career as nature photographer. His pictures have won international competitions, and led him to judge many competitions himself, including the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, the RSPCA’s Young Wildlife Photographer Competition and the BBC's Countryfile photographic competition. He also combined both of his passions when presenting the how-to TV series on nature photography, Wild Shots.
17. Richard Dunwoody
Richard Dunwoody was a three-time Champion Jockey in National Hunt racing, riding 1699 British winners in his career. Forced to retire through injury, he fulfilled his need for adrenaline through extreme sports and expeditions (in 2008 he became the first person to reach the South Pole via the route originally attempted by Earnest Shackleton).
Exposure to breathtaking landscapes on his trips reignited a childhood interest in photography, and his images were soon appearing in magazines including Tatler, Four Seasons Magazine and The Racing Post. In 2014, he hosted his first exhibition at St Martin-in-the-Fields featuring images taken in Pakistan, India, Guatemala and Egypt.
18. Koo Stark
Model Koo Stark remains best known for her romance with Prince Andrew in the 1980s. But from that decade on she began working as a photographer, and was one of the first celebrities to turn the tables on the pursuing paparazzi by taking photos of them.
To improve her craft, she took lessons from the celebrated portrait photographer Norman Parkinson, who became her mentor. Her first book, Contrasts, was published in 1985, and she's pursued a successful photography career ever since, taking in reportage, formal studio portraiture, a series of nudes, and still life. Her most recent solo exhibition, hosted last year by the Leica gallery in London, was entitled Kintsugi, a Japanese term for a way of renovating broken things.
19. Drew Carey
Drew Carey is an actor, comedian and game show host who’s best known for the eponymous sitcom The Drey Carey Show and for presenting The Price is Right. But somewhat randomly, he also works as a press photographer at US National Team soccer games, taking pictures that are sold under the pseudonym Brooks Parkenridge.
20. Gina Lollobrigida
An international sex symbol and one of the highest profile European stars of the 1950s and early 1960s, Italian actress Luigina "Gina" Lollobrigida established second careers as photojournalist and sculptress when her career slowed in the 1970s.
She shot a slew of famous faces, including Paul Newman, Salvador Dalí, Henry Kissinger, David Cassidy, Audrey Hepburn and Ella Fitzgerald, and she even managed to obtain an exclusive interview with Fidel Castro. In 1974, a collection of her work was published under the title Italia Mia.
21. Aaron Eckhart
Movie actor Aaron Eckhart, best known for his appearance in the Batman film The Dark Knight, is pretty serious about his photography. So much so that in 2012 he volunteered to visit the Dominican Republic, which was suffering devastating hurricane damage, on behalf of the charity AmeriCares, which specialises in medical aid in disaster areas.
Eckhart spent three days shooting images in various facilities, including cancer units, HIV units, children’s units and old folk’s homes, and several of his images were later auctioned off to the public for thousands of dollars each.
22. Gary Oldman
British actor and director Gary Oldman is both an accomplished photographer and a massive photography geek, particularly when it comes to historic camera equipment.
Right now, he’s currently working on a film about Eadweard Muybridge, the photographic pioneer who famously combined sequential images of a horse galloping and created one of the first proto-films. He also appeared in the short film The Carnival of Dreams, in which he visited wet plate photography Ian Ruhter and talked to him about his three-year project to create 46 x 59-inch ambrotypes.
Over the years Oldman has also cultivated a distinctive photographic style himself, shooting behind the scenes on the sets of movie such as The Book of Eli (2010), and Child 44 (2015), using a Swing-lens Widelux F6B panoramic camera. His work has been exhibited at The Kennedys Museum in Berlin, in 2012 and in 2016 in East London’s Flowers Gallery.
23. Brian May
Matching Oldman’s geek credentials when it comes to historical photography techniques, Queen guitarist Brian May has a very niche hobby indeed. His interest lies in the forgotten art of Victorian stereogram photography. This was the popular practice of combining two images of the same scene which, when seen through a special viewer, would create a 3D effect.
As a youngster, May started taking sequential photos to create his own stereograms, and later, as a physics student at Imperial College London, May started amassing what would become a world-leading collection of vintage stereo cards.
In recent years, the rock hero has bought The London Stereoscopic Company, which at its height produced stereoscopic cards in their millions, and relaunched it as a publishing company. He's also invented a new kind of viewer that gets packaged with the books, enabling readers to experience the 3D scenes in both print and on the iPad.
Then in 2014, he realised another ambition, bringing his ‘Diableries’ collection of demonic cards to life as a 3D animation, One Night in Hell, in collaboration with Unanico Group. We're not sure how he finds time for touring and astronomy as well, but he apparently manages it somehow.
24. Tim Roth
British actor Tim Roth got into photography as a kid, went to art college as a teenager, and has always been fascinated by cameras. So it’s not surprising that he has a talent for photography, which came to light when Francis Ford Coppola published his images in his literary magazine, Zoetrope, in 2007.
Roth’s interest in the discipline also led him to offer early funding for Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary film about the great undiscovered 20th-century photographer. A keen collector of Maier’s work, Roth has also been centrally involved in mounting exhibitions of her work in Los Angeles.
25. Nikki Sixx
In the 1980s, bassist of heavy metal band Mötley Crüe, was rarely out of the papers for his drinking, drug-taking and disorderly behaviour. Now, though, he says: “I'm a recovering addict. Cameras are my new drug.”
Using his Leica SL, Leica M and Leica Q, Sixx's street photography typically involves meeting strangers, striking up a conversation and hearing their stories, all before he points a camera at them. Last year, Sixx held his first exhibition, Conversations with Angels, at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles.