This article will examine 30 famous street photographers who have changed the genre as we know it today!
Street photography is a tradition as old as the invention of photography itself. For a street photographer, the street is like a stage full of possibilities, the cast unknown until the shutter is pressed.
And it looks easy, right? Many think it’s all about being in the right place at the right time capturing daily life, but as much as this is undoubtedly helpful, a lucky shot here or there won’t make you a stellar street photographer. This is what sets famous street photographers apart from your average one.
Below are 30 famous street photographers who’ve gone over and beyond the simple “snap” in the right time and place. Study their imagery and subjects and you are sure to improve your photos today.
Let’s dive in and learn more about some of the best street photographers in history!
Street Photography Masters
1. Lee Jeffries
Lee Jeffries is best known for his work on his albums Homeless and Lost Angels, in which he takes homeless people from the streets and creates startling portraiture from them. Some argue there’s a line between street photography and portraiture, but if so then Jeffries has created his own genre of “Street Portraiture” that’s left an indelible mark on the photographic world.
Vladimir ‘Boogie’ Milivojevich, was born in Serbia and began photographing the civil war that ravaged his country during the 1990s. Through this, he developed an attraction to the darker side of human society, and when he came to New York in the late 90s, he set about capturing images from some of the most dangerous neighborhoods he could find.
3. Umberto Verdoliva
Umberto Verdoliva is a master of clean lines and lighting. His photos somehow blend the art of fine photographic composition with that seductress of the street, serendipity. One of the best books she has written on street photography in New York Revisited. He also has a new book available called An Ordinary Day. Even more, he sells beautiful prints on his website and hosts workshops.
4. Andreas Paradise
Andreas Paradise is a Greek photographer who, after a brief stint in the financial sector, made photography his first and daily priority and the main way in which he expresses himself. More of a classical street photographer (i.e. catching serendipitous moments), his projects seek out the unique and unusual embedded within everyday life.
Once a passionate street photographer, best known for his photos in Paris and his book Little Crimes of Paris. Yanidel is not only a great street photographer, he’s also one of the more passionate voices in street photography today. His blog offers insights into the art, techniques, and gear, and traveling tips. He even hosts interviews and weekly polls. Definitely a feed you’ll want to check out if you’re into this art at all.
6. Joel Meyerowitz
Next is Joel Meyerowitz. Meyerowitz began photographing in color in 1962 which was advanced for the time. Most street photographers were still shooting black and white images. Also, Meyerowitz shot many portraits and street landscapes, he was considered a pioneer of color photography. Even more, his photos has been exhibited in 350 exhibitions and he’s published over 30 books. He now splits his time between New York City and Italy.
7. Henri Cartier Bresson
His favorite subjects included everyday people in the streets of France. Additionally, Bresson enjoyed sharing the human condition and the stories of the lower and middle classes around the city streets of Paris. Lastly, he is one of the founding fathers of the Magnum Photographers group which was founded in 1947. His use of 35mm film is iconic in many ways.
8. Eugène Atget
Another French photographer, Eugène Atget was a pioneer of documentary imagery. His most iconic images are those he took around Paris documenting all the architecture and street scenes he could get his eyes on. Additionally, his goal was to capture all of Paris before it was modernized. Sadly, most of his work was not shown until after his death.
9. Vivian Maier
New York street photographer Vivian Dorothy Maier was not recognized for her famous street images until long after her death. She worked as a nanny for 40 years carefully documenting the world around her and many fascinating images of herself. In 2013 John Maloof directed and wrote a film exploring her life called “Finding Vivian Maier” (2013).
The film won him an Oscar in 2015. Maier’s street photographs are still held as some of the greatest of all time. She was intensely guarded and private and seemed to use street photography as a way to express herself privately. Furthermore, her work is comprised of over 100,000 images! She was the queen of the decisive moment and someone you should study.
10. Alfred Eisenstaedt
German-born, Alfred Eisenstaedt was one of the best street photographers of his time because of his approach to photojournalism. He began taking photographs prior to World War II and post-war. Additionally, he worked for large publications including Life Magazine once arriving in America.
Eisenstaedt pioneered the 35-millimeter camera. Even more, he was famous for his ability to capture images with speed and flexibility. Most likely you know him for his iconic image of the famous V-J Day kiss in Times Square.
11. Garry Winogrand
Furthermore, one of the best street photographers in America of the mid-20th century was Garry Winogrand. Best known for his portrayal of American life and its social issues. Many people believe that Garry Winogrand transformed street photography. Largely because of his use of a 28mm wide-angle lens. Just like in the film world, he was able to have his subjects perform and tell stories in every image. He shares images that make the viewer feel like they are looking at a piece of fine art instead of the everyday life of someone.
12. Jill Freedman
Long before the days of Instagram, Jill Freedman became a highly respected New York City documentary street photographer. Her images are still part of the permanent collections at The Museum of Modern Art and the New York Public Library. Additionally, she is regarded among the best street photographers of her time through telling the stories of oddballs, activists, and protests around New York. Freedman’s photos show the darker sides of living in the city.
Freedman said activism and protests inspired her to pick up a camera and start shooting. Even more, she joined a circus for a few months where she shared the world of performers, elephants, and clowns! She also enjoyed following around NYC firemen and policemen, photographing their daily jobs. “I set out to deglamorize violence,” Freedman told the New York Times in 2015.
13. Lee Friedlander
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lee Friedlander influenced the world with his “American Social Landscape” project. He became one of many award-winning street photographers by sharing fragments of his subject’s lives. His photos include posters, street signs, reflections, and photos framed by fences.
Even more, he spent a lot of time following Jazz bands and using self-reflection in his images. He is considered one of the best street photographers because he helped so many discover new perspectives and gain self-growth through their work. His work proves that to become a famous street photographer you don’t just have to photograph people.
14. Bruce Gilden
Out of all the street photographers on our list, Bruce Gilden uses the candid close-up method the most in his images. His favorite camera to use was the Leica M6. After studying acting and a few other subjects in University he dropped out of school and started taking photo classes. The first time he developed his own photo he said “I had done something besides sports for myself, and it was incredible.” Additionally, he has taken many road trips across America, which he enjoyed shooting for himself and no one else.
15. William Klein
Noted for his ironic approach to imagery, William Klein, used more unusual techniques than other famous street photographers of his time. Even more, his work often blurs the lines of beauty and rawness. His images are often grainy and gritty.
He was born in New York in an Irish neighborhood and spent a lot of his time escaping to museums to find inspiration before enlisting in the army. He was sent to France where he studied history at the Sorbonne. From there he was hired by Vogue to shoot fashion which greatly influenced his street photography work. Furthermore, combining fashion and street photography inspired many of his peers and is still something we see today in many fashion images.
16. David Alan Harvey
A full-time member of Magnum photos, David Alan Harvey has worked extensively for National Geographic magazine. He has traveled all around the world, shooting a lot of his work in South America. He is considered one of the best street photographers of yesterday and today because of his use of light and color to evoke emotion from the viewer. Furthermore, one of the most important things for Harvey is having something to say in his images. His photographs share a common theme of raising questions.
When asked about the role of social media in photography, it seems that Harvey enjoys using platforms like Instagram. Harvey says “The new platforms of online and the social media—I use it to build an audience, to number one teach—and number 2, to put out my own work. Like the new book: that I did in Rio de Janeiro, I put an online paywall for $1.99. That helped finance the project and sell the book. So I’m very comfortable with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and the digital age online.”
17. Robert Doisneau
During the 1930s, Robert Doisneau photographed the streets of Paris. He was an expert in humanist photography. Even more, alongside Henri Cartier-Bresson he pioneered photojournalism. His photographs are now considered fine art and share a poetic approach to street photography. Most notably you will remember his photograph of “The Kiss” as a couple kiss in a busy street in front of the Hotel de Ville in Paris.
18. Elliott Erwitt
An American photographer, his black and white candid photos are still iconic today. Elliott Erwitt’s images explored absurd situations in everyday life. Additionally, he was born in Paris in 1928 and immigrated to the US where he spent his adolescence living in Hollywood. It was here he took interest in street photography which later led him to New York where he worked alongside Robert Capa. Today, Elliott Erwitt still works for many magazines including LIFE.
19. Josef Koudelka
Award-winning street photographer Josef Koudelka is known for his images of the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968. He was only 30 years old when he began snapping away during this harsh time. He was smuggled out of the country by Magnum Agency. Later, he would continue to travel around Europe as a nomadic photographer covering themes such as freedom and using walls in many of his photos.
20. Walker Evans
American street photographer, Walker Evans covered much of the Great Depression. He used a large-format camera while working for the Farm Security Administration to bring awareness to what was happening in America after the economic crash. Later in his life, he often worked with Polaroid cameras, which he used to depict street graffiti.
21. Saul Leiter
Painter and photographer Saul Leiter worked during the 1950s as a street photographer and would later be recognized for his work at the New York School of Photography. While his family expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Rabbi, Leiter chose the path of photography. He was fascinated by abstract art, his work is considered less humanist and more artistic.
22. Susan Meiselas
The photographs of war-torn Nicaragua made Susan Meiselas famous. Even more, she was well known for images of American carnival strippers. She is remembered as saying “The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.” Today, she still enjoys traveling the world and photographing indigenous people.
23. Helen Levitt
The most celebrated and least known photographer of her time, Helen Levitt’s work was exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in 1943. Helen Levitt shared playful and poetic images which delighted generations for close to 60 years.
She loved capturing fleeting moments around New York and gave a glimpse into her humor through her photos.
24. Paola Franqui
Puerto Rican-born street photographer Paola Franqui is an expert in visual storytelling. She has a BA in Criminal Justice but made her hobby of photography into a full-time career instead. Franqui constantly pushes boundaries and tries to master timing in her work. Lastly, she has worked with many major brands including Uber, Sony, and ESPN. You can see more of her work on her Instagram.
25. Diane Arbus
Best known for her “photography of freaks” Diane Arbus her work tries to normalize marginalized groups. She spent many years photographing people around NYC who had disabilities or those who lived on the fringes of society. Sadly, like her mother Arbus suffered from depression and violent mood swings. She committed suicide in 1971 at the age of 48.
26. Robert Frank
American street documentary photographer, Robert Frank, was swiss-born but became largely known for his work in America. Furthermore, his images explored the nuanced views of outsiders in American society.
Lastly, his most notable work is a book titled “The Americans” published in 1958 which explored the social landscape of America.
27. Charles Marville
French photographer, Charles Marville was famous for his photographs of architecture and urban landscapes. Also, he used both paper and glass negatives. His work mainly captures Paris before Haussmann began rebuilding the city, tearing down much of its original buildings. His photos offer viewers a unique visit to Paris before (and during) the work of Hausmann.
28. Bill Cunningham
A Harvard University dropout, Bill Cunningham became famous for his work with the New York Times. Even more, his photos changed street photography as we know it in many ways. By combining fashion and documentary-style photos. Even more, he often found trends that no one else saw from fanny packs to sunglasses. Lastly, his work is worth millions today and still inspires many fashion blogs.
29. Girma Berta
Next up is Girma Berta. Berta is an avid user of Instagram as a tool to show brilliant street photographs. Her images are often colorful and tend to play with shadows and movement.
Additionally, she is a self-taught street photographer who is based in Ethiopia. Her work fuses street photos with fine-art and is a commentary of the digital revolution working its way through Africa.
30. Bruce Davidson
Most of the photographs of Burce Davidson were taken in Harlem, New York City, but have been exhibited around the world. Additionally, his images explore communities that are normally hostile to outsiders. Even more, he is quoted as saying “If I am looking for a story at all, it is in my relationship to the subject – the story that tells me, rather than that I tell”.
In conclusion, we hope you enjoyed this list of famous street photographers! Did you see any we missed? Drop us a comment and tell us some of your favorites! Also, don’t forget to check out these books and tips to better your own street photography today!
Who is the best street photographer?
Deciding who is the “best” is subjective but many photographers would argue Henri Cartier Bresson as the best because he invented the decisive moment and had a major influence on street photography as we know it today.
Who is the father of street photography?
The father of street photography would have to be once again Henri Cartier-Bresson. His work in Paris during the early 1900s laid the foundation for street photography and still inspires many photographers today.