10 Legendary Street Photographers You Should Know
©Daido Moriyama – Self Portrait
Streets of Chrome: 10 Legendary Street Photographers You Should Know
When we first launched #streetsofchrome, we wanted to find a way to bring together a community of people we saw out there on the city streets, taking in the world around them and turning it into something more – a record of a time and place, of the people and places that make cities more than just a collection of streets and buildings.
This is far from a new impulse. It’s human nature to want to document the things around us. From cave paintings to the rise of Instagram, people have been driven to visually capture their environments and the people in them.
Below are ten of our favorite photographers that we think truly captured the essence and vibrancy of their time in the city streets.
No list of street photographers could begin without Cartier-Bresson. A pioneer in the field of street photography, Cartier-Bresson brought art, composition and pathos to his photographs of city streets and the people who inhabited them.
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.
Although sometimes remembered more for his contributions to early modern art and photography through his magazines, Camera Work and Camera Notes – and his curation of the Dadaist gallery 291 which he opened in 1908, Stieglitz was also an extremely influential street photographer. From his photos of New York at the turn of the 20th century to his portraiture of the American Southwest where he lived with Georgia O’Keeffe – Stieglitz’ eye for moody scenarios made him one of the best.
I have always been a great believer in today. Most people live either in the past or in the future, so that they really never live at all. So many people are busy worrying about the future of art or society, they have no time to preserve what is. Utopia is in the moment. Not in some future time, some other place, but in the here and now, or else it is nowhere.
©Maloof Collection/Vivian Maier Estate
Largely unknown during her lifetime, Vivian Maier’s candid shots of Chicago captured our imagination when a collector bought a storage unit full of unprinted negatives and uploaded the prints to his blog after her death in 2009. Quiet and unassuming, Maier used her reserved nature to document the world around her without disturbing it.
We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel – you get on, you go to the end, and someone else has the same opportunity to go to the end, and so on, and somebody else takes their place.
Also known as “The Eye of Paris” – Brassaï’s nighttime photography of the City of Lights was immortalized in his 1933 book Paris de Nuit (Paris by Night). Brassaï’s photos not only captured the soul of Paris between two world wars but also often shot from apartment windows or other high places down onto the street which stylistically influenced street photographers for years to come.
I use photography in order to capture the beauty of streets and gardens in the rain and fog, and to capture Paris by night.
©Glen E Friedman
Glen E. Friedman
Although he’s mostly known as a portraitist, Glen’s visceral documentation of the birth of hardcore and hip hop is legendary. Cities are more than just buildings, they’re made up of the people, experiences and culture that make up the urban soul. Few have captured that tangible feeling like Glen.
All of a sudden bands we liked were playing in these smaller venues and I’m like, holy shit, I could touch the person. I’ve got to start taking pictures of this.
A Greenwich Village mainstay, the self-described “Lazy Hustler” has been documenting the heartbeat of Lower Manhattan since he was on the come up with his gradeschool homies, the Beastie Boys. Looking at Ricky’s photography, you get the feeling that you could’ve been in that bar with Keith Haring or bumped into Warhol and Basquiat on the street. A raconteur on top of being an amazing photographer, Ricky always puts his subjects at ease by taking them for strolls through the Village for “a Walk and Talk” – check the Walk and Talk we did with Ricky last year.
You just go for a walk and you talk and then all the sudden a great background comes up. Quick, quick, click, click. I like it easy, cuz I’m lazy.
Whether you know it or not, you’ve seen Doisneau’s work. His 1950 shot of a couple kissing on a busy Parisian street has been reprinted on everything from t-shirts to posters to bed spreads. But beyond that one shot, Doisneau’s tireless dedication to documenting everyday life in post-war France gave us an indelible, human portrait of an urban landscape struggling to heal and find love after trauma.
The photographer pulls the sleeve of the rushed man with a blank stare and shows him the free and permanent show of the street.
Born in Serbia during a time of violence and strife in that region, Boogie is no stranger to the dark side of the city. His raw, sometimes bleak style of the underbelly of cities from Belgrade to Brooklyn to Sao Paolo to San Francisco have brought new awareness to often marginalized aspects of society.
I’ve always had a good relationship with people in the margins of society. If you give respect, you get it back. I’m not fearless at all because I care about what happens to me; I don’t think any image is worth dying for. In the streets, your instincts are your best tool. When my instincts tell me it’s gonna get nasty and I need to go, I go.
A pioneer of artistic street photography in Japan, Moriyama was closely associated with the art/photography magazine Provoke which was a milestone for avant garde and street photography. Moriyama and Provoke helped to shape the “are-bure-boke” style – translated to “grainy/rough, blurry, out-of-focus” which pushed the boundaries of capturing the moment with a camera.
The crushing force of time is before my eyes, and I myself try to keep pressing the shutter release of the camera.
Cheryl Dunn made one of our favorite documentaries about street photography, the essential Everybody Street, a movie that digs deep with street photographers about their history, their obsessions and their drives. Beyond that, she’s an incredible street photographer in her own right, capturing intimate scenes on city streets from New York to the Bay Area and beyond.
There is this combination of people on top of people, and the way in which you maneuver on the space on the sidewalk with these giant skyscrapers. A photograph is a moment in time, and that’s an order of sorts. What compels photographers to go into the streets and do this for their whole lives in some cases is that moment of surprise. It’s like opening a present. For me it’s a total adrenaline rush.