Even ChatGPT knows that "the greatest photographers of all time is subjective"

Martin Parr sits in front of photo exhibition
Martin Parr - does he make a list of the greatest photographers? (Image credit: Getty Images)

Here we go again. Another article on AI, only this time someone has asked ChatGPT – a language-based model chatbot by Open AI – to list the 20 greatest photographers of all time. Many big names in photography, such as Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz, have been included (no surprises there) but can we really trust the words of a robot?

The question in itself is subjective. The 20 greatest photographers of all time will vary from person to person but, since ChatGPT is trained on information readily available on the internet, those listed will be the most famous and talked about. 

And as well as listing the photographic greats, it also supplied the cameras they used – which includes classic film cameras such as Rolleiflex and more recent DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

ChatGPT listed 20 greatest photographers of all time as well as the cameras and focal lengths they mainly use. from r/Leica

Many of the photographers on the list have been instrumental in defining photographic genres, and also feature on our own list of the 50 best photographers ever – first published in 2018 and written by David Clark who has interviewed many of the world's best photographers – which is precisely the kind of source of information that ChatGPT pulls from.

Iconic names range from Henri Cartier-Bresson, who coined the term “the decisive moment” and founded Magnum Photos, to more contemporary names such as Steve McCurry, who is well known for his vibrant, digital photos including Afghan Girl (which featured on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985). 

ChatGPT works by pulling content scraped from the internet which can include books, articles, photo tags and web pages. The original list posted to Reddit is pretty predictable, although some famous names have been excluded. When I asked ChatGPT the same question it gave me a slightly different result, but it also recognized something that surprised me.

Before listing the photographers, ChatGPT pointed out that "the title of 'greatest photographers of all time' is subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences and criteria".

(Image credit: Chat GPT)

It also clarifies that the list it provided includes influential and renowned photographers who have significantly impacted the photography field. Names such as Man Ray, Helmut Newton and Sebastião Salgado all made an appearance in the list I generated, but not in the original list – which shows there is space for randomness, even with similar prompts.

When it comes to the list posted to Reddit, detailing the cameras used by each of the photographers, most photographers would have used a variety of cameras throughout their careers as technology advanced, so the list is not completely accurate. 

It does, however, provide an interesting insight into who AI deems the most influential – and gives you the opportunity to compare it to your own views. 

artificial intelligence

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Try out the best AI image generators for yourself, to see what the technology can do for you. And pay homage to some of the photographic greats by checking out the best film cameras – classic analog cameras that are still popular today.

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.