Famous Portrait Photographers

In this article, I’m going to give a brief overview of my favorite famous portrait photographers.  A few of these names have been mentioned in past articles on this blog, but are most definitely worth mentioning again.

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus is my favorite portrait photographer of all time.  She was to become known as the “photographer of freaks”, which is exactly what she hoped would not happen.

“Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.” -Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus was born on March 14, 1923 into a wealthy family, and was generally insulated from the effects of the great depression.  She married her childhood sweetheart, Alan Arbus, at the age of 18.  Together they developed a successful fashion photography business.  She admittedly hated the fashion world, and went on to quit commercial photography altogether.

Diane Arbus: A Biography is a wonderful and very detailed biography of the photographer, which I have read and highly recommend.  It truly changed my life.

Her controversial images of “freaks” were to become her most well know works.  These images were to create quite a bit of criticism, and accusations of exploitation.  However, Diane Arbus claimed that it was never her intention to exploit her subjects, only to show their beauty and humanity.

After years of suffering through years of depressive episodes, made worse by recurring episodes of hepatitis, Diane Arbus committed suicide.

Diane Arbus Photography

Diane Arbus Photography

Diane Arbus Photography

Diane Arbus Photography

Diane Arbus Photography

Diane Arbus Photography


Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills is the complete collection of film stills, created between 1977 and 1980.  The film stills are collected for the first time in this 9.5″ x 11.25″ volume from MoMA, which purchased the entire set of 69 shots in 1995.

Cindy Sherman, who is indeed one of my favorite famous portrait photographers, became famous for her very unique and unconventional self-portraits.  Her initial portfolio of images, now known as the “film stills” catapulted her into fame upon their release in 1980.  These images feature the photographer herself as a B-movie actress, in a variety of roles.

Cindy Sherman Film Still #34


Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #23

Cindy Sherman

cindy sherman film stills

cindy sherman film stills

A later famous set of self-portraits were called the “History Portraits”, and featured Cindy Sherman dressed as subjects from various famous paintings.

cindy sherman

Annie Leibovitz

My third favorite portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, began her career in 1970 as a staff photographer for Rolling Stone magazine.  Only three years later she was to be deemed the chief photographer at Rolling Stone.

The following photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, one of her most famous images, is the last professional photograph ever taken of John Lennon.  Five hours after the image was taken, John Lennon was shot and killed.

John y Yoko Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz published a book of female portraits, titled simply “Women”.  While, I have not read this book myself, I’m sure that the images are stellar.  It also comes highly reviewed on Amazon.

Other notable Annie Leibovitz portraits include Meryl Streep, Whoopi Goldberg, Sting, and Demi Moore.

Demi Moore


2 Responses to Famous Portrait Photographers

  1. michael says:


    I enjoyed looking through you favorit portrait photographers, amazing stuff!

    A friend of mine, Cris Alexander, recently passed away on March 7 at the ripe age of 93.

    Through the years he showed me numerous portraits that he had taken. He too was amazing and I was wondering if you know of any books that might be out there about him that included his work.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Michael,

      Until now I didn’t know about your friend Chris Alexander. A Google search did show a few titles, but not very many. I plan to check into his work more now that I know of him. Thanks for pointing him out.

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