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 (opens in new tab)

Leibowitz shared her choices in a conversation (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) and Robert Frank (opens in new tab) were of course very important," explained Leibowitz. 

"And also Eugene Smith (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab)’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 (opens in new tab) and Irving Penn (opens in new tab)

"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 (opens in new tab), 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."

Read more: 

The 50 best photographers ever (opens in new tab)
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How to download Premiere Pro (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web 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 as diverse as 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, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). 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.