Apparently lots of people don't like lists very much. I think adamct, in the featured comment to the previous post, nailed the reason why I do. Still....
Well, I'll forge ahead anyway.
Who are the ten greatest photographers?
Dare I ask? But keep reading....
This is going to be a big challenge, and it's going to tax you. It's an experiment that could well end up being a failure. But instead of the usual GOAT-type list, let's see if we can crowd-source—er, TOP-source—a list of TODAY'S great photographers: that is, photographers who came along after the advent of digital, after the advent of the Internet.
I.e., not the old graybeards or grannies who made their bones in the '60s and '70s. Not the people who have been retreaded through the museums for years now, or who are on their third or sixth or tenth book. (No matter how much we love those people. And we do, of course.) I'm talking about people nobody would have heard of before 1995 or so.
Where to start?
The first, almost mandatory inclusion, in my mind, would be Vivian Maier, in that she's almost exclusively an Internet phenomenon—to me she's one of the sensations of c. 2009, not of the years in which she worked. But she's cheating, since she's a film photographer from mid-century who only came to prominence during the digital era. (Call her the Eugene Atget of the digital age.)
Whether you only want to assay a nomination or two, or concoct your whole list...here's my challenge for you: who are the greatest photographers of the digital era? (Regardless of their actual chosen medium.)
Gauntlet duly thrown....
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Marcus: "Bryan Formhals and Blake Andrews put together an interesting list a year ago with a nice little twist: '10 Oeuvres Aspiring Photographers Should Ignore,' a list of photographer's styles that have been copied to death and run their course."
Mike replies: That's wonderful. I'd never seen it before. Thanks.
And that is definitely one distinct hallmark of the digital/internet era: common styles being copied unto death.
Terrence Morrissey: "One to add to the list, Joey Lawrence only 23 years old."
Mike replies: Too obviously commercial for me. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Rory Challands: "My choice for number one would be Jason Eskenazi. He's an uncompromising New Yorker, whose refusal to go for commissions has made his professional life tougher than it should have been. He was turned down by Magnum, and was scraping a low wage as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC while his book, Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith, was selling out in the shop there.
"Wonderland (though it could do with a bigger format so the page break doesn't split each photo down the middle), is my favourite recent photography book. It's an elegy to the people of the former Soviet union, and documents the human relics of that fallen empire in the decade following its collapse.
"Jason is a master of photographic depth. He doesn't take pictures of things. He take pictures of the relationships between things. Each of his photos is beautifully layered with a rhythm that takes your eye dancing sadly through the frame. It's classic black and white street photography/photojournalism that doesn't break any moulds or claim any new inventions. But it's so exquisitely felt and executed that his name should be listed in the hall of Greats.
"He's obviously sacrificed to take the images he does. I hope he doesn't question too much whether its worth it. It is."
[Ed. Note.: Wonderland is back in print, and can be ordered directly from Jason at his website for only $32! Cool. I did not know. Much better than paying $73 to $900(!) at Amazon. —MJ.]
RobinP (partial comment): "Whoa!—shock and horror. Thanks, Mike, perhaps you've just pointed out one of the failings of the 'digital era'; or maybe I just live in the past...nearly all the books on my photography shelves are of artists who produced their best work long before 1995."
Mattias: "Rinko Kawauchi. She is to Japanese photography of the last decade what Moriyama was to the '60s and Araki to the '70s, a true original with a distinct vision. About the only thing she seems to have picked up from her peers is, in her early career, the diaristic content à la Araki, which she has progressed away from."
Dave: "This is a brilliant idea. Because I can't think of a single photographer for this list, I can't wait to see the results. I'm looking forward to being inspired by the finalists."
Stan B.: "Before the digital era I could at least name most of my faves off the top of my head; now...it's like expansion teams gone wild. I've well exceeded your suggested limit—so cut me off where need be:
"Taryn Simon, Zoe Strauss, Aaron Huey, Matt Black, Mark Steinmetz, Eva Leitolf, Leon A. Borensztein, Brenda Ann Keneally, Brian Rose, Jens Olof Lasthein, Scot Sothern, Doug Rickard, Jason Eskanazi, Bruce Haley, Thomas Michael Alleman, Thomas Kern, Robert Gumpert, Vanessa Winship, George Georgiou, Dave Jordano, Valeri Nistratov, a holy host of others, and of course, Vivian...."
Derek Lyons: "These lists always end up being lists of the 'most widely known'...because really there's no other way to find common ground."