9 photographers you MUST know about, according to Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibowitz
(Image credit: Adobe)

History is littered with truly great photographers, from the old masters to modern wunderkinds. However, with so many greats to learn from, which are the essential photographers whose work you absolutely have to check out, if you want to expand your own creativity? 

According to one of the modern greats, Annie Leibowitz, there are nine photographers whose work will truly inspire and help you boost your own creative instincts, whether you're a photographer or any other kind of visual artist.

• Read more: Adobe Max roundup

Leibowitz shared her choices in a conversation at Adobe Max 2020 this week, where she was one of the headline speakers. During the same interview, she also shared how she has been taking landscapes and conducting virtual shoots during the challenging lockdown period. 

Her choices of inspirational photographers, though, were perhaps the most fascinating part of the conversation – and we guarantee that you'll never guess the photographer she chose at number nine…

1) Henri Cartier-Bresson
2) Robert Frank
3) Eugene Smith

"You know, having done this over such a long period of time, when I was a student and I was just beginning, Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank were of course very important," explained Leibowitz. 

"And also Eugene Smith when I started to work for Rolling Stone, and I started to look at very classic photo essays that Eugene Smith did."

4) Dorothea Lange
5) Richard Avedon
6) Irving Penn
7) Guy Bordin
8) Helmut Newton

"Dorothea Lange’s work, from the depression, and then as I started to do the covers for Rolling Stone, I became more interested in portraiture, and of course Richard Avedon and Irving Penn

"And Guy Bordin for color, because I started off just photographing in black and white, and I started to look at his brazen color coming out of France. Oh, and I should also mention Helmut Newton, of course."

9) Mary Beth Meehan

"I do want to bring up, there was someone recently, this woman Mary Beth Meehan. I don’t know if you saw her work – she did an art installation in a small town in Georgia. She photographed portraits of people in the small town and then she took these huge prints, mural-sized prints, and put them on the sides of buildings, and it was incredible."

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.