Forums > General Industry > Why are photographers unknowns

Photographer

Dan K Photography

Posts: 5466

STATEN ISLAND, New York, US

Compared to other artistic endeavors it seems like photographers are the least well known. What brought this to mind is the calendar shoot by  Steve McCurry. Now everyone has seen his most famous work but I doubt many outside of photography has a clue who shot it. I know I didn't until I saw that calander thread.

The layman can name many painters, writers, directors etc but very few photographers. I know that before I started photography I could probably name maybe Adams and Annie Leibovitz.

You would think with the scandals and the high profile work of Terry Richardson would make him well known but I doubt the man on the street has ever heard of him.

Nov 29 12 10:34 am Link

Photographer

BlueMoonPics

Posts: 4440

New York, New York, US

This is so true.  I don't know why either.
The only ones I knew many years ago were Eisenstaedt and Ansel Adams.

Nov 29 12 10:40 am Link

Photographer

John Horwitz

Posts: 2736

Raleigh, North Carolina, US

chuckle - I'm world famous...

Nov 29 12 10:41 am Link

Photographer

DAN CRUIKSHANK

Posts: 1786

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Possibly because Phoography is a fairly new art form, when compared to painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. For the most part modern artists of any kind who are still alive are not world renowned, they are only know by those who are interested in their particular art form and have done enough research to discover them.

Photographers are also very much behind the scenes. When we take pictures of people or things they become the focal point. People are far more concerned about the subject in the phoograph than the guy behind the camera.

This is the same for movie directors. Although a Hollywood director may be recognized, they will never be as popular or well known as their leading actor or actress.

Nov 29 12 10:46 am Link

Photographer

Guss W

Posts: 10637

Clearwater, Florida, US

How many contemporary sculptors are household names?

Nov 29 12 10:54 am Link

Photographer

Lars R Peterson

Posts: 1073

Seattle, Washington, US

Guss W wrote:
How many contemporary sculptors are household names?

Does Dale Chihuly count?

Nov 29 12 10:56 am Link

Model

Christie Gabriel

Posts: 2803

Chicago, Illinois, US

I disagree. We just notice it more because it is the art we are most involved in. The majority of famous painters (for example) were nowhere near household name level until long after they died.

Nov 29 12 10:57 am Link

Photographer

toesup

Posts: 1051

Templeton, California, US

So you dont know of the works of..

John Swannell
Elmer Batters
Helmut Newton
Bob Carlos Clarke
David Bailey
Terrence Donovan
Don McCullin
Patrick Lichfield

Nov 29 12 10:59 am Link

Photographer

Dan K Photography

Posts: 5466

STATEN ISLAND, New York, US

toesup wrote:
So you dont know of the works of..

John Swannell
Elmer Batters
Helmut Newton
Bob Carlos Clarke
David Bailey
Terrence Donovan
Don McCullin
Patrick Lichfield

Even now Newton is the only one I have heard of. But I doubt the average person does which is what this thread is about.

I will guarantee that most anyone you ask this question to who isn't into photography will not have heard of any of them.

Nov 29 12 11:02 am Link

Photographer

Dan K Photography

Posts: 5466

STATEN ISLAND, New York, US

Guss W wrote:
How many contemporary sculptors are household names?

That is true but you would think that photography being associated with show business would have more traction.

Nov 29 12 11:03 am Link

Photographer

BlueMoonPics

Posts: 4440

New York, New York, US

Rembrandt, Picasso, DaVinci are household names.
Newton, unless you mean Isaac, is not unfortunately.

Nov 29 12 11:06 am Link

Photographer

DAN CRUIKSHANK

Posts: 1786

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

In the end we simply aren't as important as we think we are.

Nov 29 12 11:07 am Link

Photographer

toesup

Posts: 1051

Templeton, California, US

Dan K Photography wrote:

Even now Newton is the only one I have heard of. But I doubt the average person does which is what this thread is about.

I will guarantee that most anyone you ask this question to who isn't into photography will not have heard of any of them.

But Swannell, Clarke, Bailey, Donovan,Lichfield were all household names in the UK in the 70's and the 80's..
.. especially Bailey and Lichfield!..

And you have heard of non of them?.. yeeessshh..

Nov 29 12 11:11 am Link

Photographer

ForeverFotos

Posts: 6644

Indianapolis, Indiana, US

If you know anything at all about photography, you know the name Ashton Kutcher. After all, he is the definition of great photography.......at least if you watch his Nikon commercials. That IS what Nikon wants you to think, right?

Nov 29 12 11:16 am Link

Photographer

NothingIsRealButTheGirl

Posts: 33593

Los Angeles, California, US

How many Nobel Prize winners are household names?

Nov 29 12 11:17 am Link

Photographer

Photographe

Posts: 2350

Bristol, England, United Kingdom

Dan K Photography wrote:
Even now Newton is the only one I have heard of. But I doubt the average person does which is what this thread is about.

I will guarantee that most anyone you ask this question to who isn't into photography will not have heard of any of them.

5 of them are British, maybe that is why.

Lord Lichfield is a household name here. Bailey and Rankin are more recently well-known for presenting documentaries on TV.

Tyra Banks is a household name here due to ANTM, as is anyone who was already a star before they were handed cosmetic or perfume contracts. Elle Macpherson too for BNTM.

The opposite is true as well. Probably not many know that Eve Pollard's daughter, Claudia Winkelman was a fashion editor at Tatler magazine.

I think the average Brit can not list supermodels past Dean Johnson and Naomi Campbell and photographers past Bailey or Rankin.

Nov 29 12 11:22 am Link

Photographer

Woven Thought

Posts: 329

Petersburg, Virginia, US

The public isn't very aware of art.  Sure, I know Chihuly, but I'll bet 90% of the folk I know do not.

Nov 29 12 11:24 am Link

Photographer

toesup

Posts: 1051

Templeton, California, US

So if those here don't know of photographers of the recent past, how do you expect the public to know their names...

Mathew Brady
Irving Klaw
Richard Avedon
Bill Brandt
Cartier-Bresson
Elliott Erwitt
Edward and Brett Weston
Horst P. Horst
George Hurrell
Yousuf Karsh
Man Ray
Irving Penn
Herb Ritts
Andy Warhol

How many of those do you know of?..

PS One of the photographers on my original list was American!

Nov 29 12 11:33 am Link

Photographer

J O H N A L L A N

Posts: 10330

Santa Ana, California, US

Because photographers (by many/most - and almost more so today with digital), aren't considered artists (more technicians) - although even those people would probably agree there is an artistic component.

Unless you're part of the music industry, name me a top mix engineer (also certainly an artistic component in a very technical endeavor).

Nov 29 12 11:34 am Link

Photographer

nyk fury

Posts: 2918

Port Townsend, Washington, US

cause all we do is click.

Nov 29 12 11:38 am Link

Photographer

Imageography

Posts: 6768

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

nyk fury wrote:
cause all we do is click.

According to many, this is how the people of the world think.

Nov 29 12 11:41 am Link

Photographer

Dan K Photography

Posts: 5466

STATEN ISLAND, New York, US

toesup wrote:
So if those here don't know of photographers of the recent past, how do you expect the public to know their names...

What does who I know have to do with anything? The question is why doesn't the general public know. I only know a few because I have it as an interest.

Andy Warhol from your list is of course famous but he is more known as a artist then just a photographer.

Nov 29 12 11:43 am Link

Photographer

Dan K Photography

Posts: 5466

STATEN ISLAND, New York, US

Rollo David Snook wrote:
5 of them are British, maybe that is why.

Lord Lichfield is a household name here. Bailey and Rankin are more recently well-known for presenting documentaries on TV.

Tyra Banks is a household name here due to ANTM, as is anyone who was already a star before they were handed cosmetic or perfume contracts. Elle Macpherson too for BNTM.

The opposite is true as well. Probably not many know that Eve Pollard's daughter, Claudia Winkelman was a fashion editor at Tatler magazine.

I think the average Brit can not list supermodels past Dean Johnson and Naomi Campbell and photographers past Bailey or Rankin.

So most of the 90's supermodels would not be known outside of brits and Top Model shows? Cindy Crawford, Schiffer , Linda Evangelista, Laetitia Casta etc?

Nov 29 12 11:49 am Link

Photographer

CBAPhoto

Posts: 261

Sparks, Nevada, US

I've been asked more than once why I don't really have any photos of myself on my FB profile. Until recently I had none. Currently there's exactly one and it's with a fellow photographer in the shot. My answer to those who asked was, "Because it's not about me. It's about my work."

If just one piece of my work survives a thousand years beyond my lifetime, even without my name on it, then I will have achieved a thousand years of immortality from my work. Who will give a shit about me beyond that photo?! If nothing at all survives, who will know of anything I did, even anonymously???

Nov 29 12 11:50 am Link

Photographer

MC Photo

Posts: 4144

New York, New York, US

Dan K Photography wrote:
Compared to other artistic endeavors it seems like photographers are the least well known. What brought this to mind is the calendar shoot by  Steve McCurry. Now everyone has seen his most famous work but I doubt many outside of photography has a clue who shot it. I know I didn't until I saw that calander thread.

The layman can name many painters, writers, directors etc but very few photographers. I know that before I started photography I could probably name maybe Adams and Annie Leibovitz.

You would think with the scandals and the high profile work of Terry Richardson would make him well known but I doubt the man on the street has ever heard of him.

Who directed the last episode of Law and Order?

Who's the chief of surgery at the closest trauma center to where you live? Is the closest hospital even a trauma center?

Who's your congressman? Who's your city councilman?

Who's the head ref for the Superbowl?

Who directs the national evening news on any of the three networks?

Who produced the current number one song on the Billboard hot 100? Who engineered it? Who wrote it?

Who is the COO of iTunes?

Who is the director of R&D at Canon/Nikon/whatever brand you use?

Who designed the 85 1.2?

Who picked the Christmas tree for Rockefeller Center? Who's in charge of decorating it?

There are far higher profile jobs than the Pirelli calendar that we don't know the name of the person doing.

Who even has a copy of the calendar?

As far as I've experienced the most important part of the Pirelli calendar is the discussion of how it's made. I've never seen one. I don't care about what it looks like, but I will always watch the behind the scenes video. The discussion of who's shooting it and what they did gets Pirelli far more publicity than the calendar itself. When know when the shoot happens, do we even know when the calendar is released?

Think about all the crappy calendars you've ever been given with a business name on it. That's what the Pirelli calendar is. The bigger question is who is the genius who figured out that if you could turn a piece of shit marketing tool like a calendar into a talked about, high end fashion piece, you've implied that's what the Pirelli brand is - and it is. They are designer tires. They're probably not any better than good year.

The calendar is the Leica of calendars x10. That's what they're saying about their tires. Pretty brilliant. Who cares who shot it?

Nov 29 12 11:51 am Link

Photographer

Dragon Ink Photography

Posts: 1057

Hackettstown, New Jersey, US

nyk fury wrote:
cause all we do is click.

Exactly what I was going to say.  I don't think most people realize how much work goes into photography.  Sure, anyone can happen to take a good picture, but to do so consistently is very hard.  Molding light, watching angles and composition, posing people, and so many other things all add up to that final image.  Until they've tried it, they'll never know.  I think most people think it's as simple as pointing the lights and camera the the person.  It's also why most can't understand why an 8x10 should cost $100.  After all, anyone can click a shutter, and have it printed at walmart.  hmm

Nov 29 12 11:53 am Link

Photographer

MC Photo

Posts: 4144

New York, New York, US

DAN CRUIKSHANK wrote:
In the end we simply aren't as important as we think we are.

Especially photographers.

Unless it's a self-portrait the photo is about someone or something else. At least it should be.

Nov 29 12 11:53 am Link

Photographer

MC Photo

Posts: 4144

New York, New York, US

ForeverFotos wrote:
If you know anything at all about photography, you know the name Ashton Kutcher. After all, he is the definition of great photography.......at least if you watch his Nikon commercials. That IS what Nikon wants you to think, right?

No. They want you to think cool, popular people use Nikon and if you buy Nikon people will see you like they see Ashton Kutcher.

Nov 29 12 11:54 am Link

Photographer

MC Photo

Posts: 4144

New York, New York, US

Dan K Photography wrote:

What does who I know have to do with anything? The question is why doesn't the general public know. I only know a few because I have it as an interest.

Andy Warhol from your list is of course famous but he is more known as a artist then just a photographer.

Because it isn't important at all. Especially fashion. It's made up. It's about luxury, not necessity. Most people have far more important things to worry about than luxury. And if they do, they're going to worry about the brand and the designer and who else likes it long before they'd ever think about who shot the photo in the magazine ad they used to line their bird cage.

Nov 29 12 11:59 am Link

Photographer

MC Photo

Posts: 4144

New York, New York, US

Dan K Photography wrote:

So most of the 90's supermodels would not be known outside of brits and Top Model shows? Cindy Crawford, Schiffer , Linda Evangelista, Laetitia Casta etc?

But the photos are of them and about them. It doesn't matter who shoots the photos, it matters who's in them.

Nov 29 12 12:00 pm Link

Photographer

MC Photo

Posts: 4144

New York, New York, US

Dragon Ink Photography wrote:

Exactly what I was going to say.  I don't think most people realize how much work goes into photography.  Sure, anyone can happen to take a good picture, but to do so consistently is very hard.  Molding light, watching angles and composition, posing people, and so many other things all add up to that final image.  Until they've tried it, they'll never know.  I think most people think it's as simple as pointing the lights and camera the the person.  It's also why most can't understand why an 8x10 should cost $100.  After all, anyone can click a shutter, and have it printed at walmart.  hmm

True, but why should people know who did the work?

The guy who picks up my trash does far more work than any photographer does.

Nov 29 12 12:01 pm Link

Photographer

Erin Dawson Photography

Posts: 334

Olney, Maryland, US

The greats remain unknown because they didn't plaster their logo big enough through the center of all their photos.


Seriously though, it's a behind the scenes kinda craft. Like director, writer, painter, etc only a few of any craft are well known. Models & actors are just elements used to convey a story; they'll always be more recognizable than us. It's their job. I like the anonymity.
Reminds me of a Modest Mouse lyric:

"All the pretty actors
Gladly take the credit
For the words created by
The people tucked away from sight."

Nov 29 12 12:03 pm Link

Photographer

JK Photos

Posts: 11

Manassas, Virginia, US

DAN CRUIKSHANK wrote:
Possibly because Phoography is a fairly new art form, when compared to painting, drawing, sculpting, etc.

Exactly.... 

BlueMoonPics wrote:
Rembrandt, Picasso, DaVinci are household names.

Yes, there are other household names when it comes to art, but you have just spanned 485 years with that list (Birth of DaVinci to death of Picasso) give or take a few years if you count "career" but not much.

Photography hasn't even been around half of that and once you count in the "clutter" of the amount of information we can process now vs the years 1500-1800 it's going to get harder for anyone to become a household name.. painter, musician, photographer, etc.

Give a couple hundred years of collective works and the ability to measure the impact of those works and we should see some photographers in that list.

The question should be, "when will a photographer make this list and who will it be? (Daguerre? Brady? Leibovitz? etc)

Nov 29 12 12:05 pm Link

Photographer

Fotopia

Posts: 1101

Atlanta, Georgia, US

As always, it all gets back to education, or lack thereof.

The recent world-wide survey of the quality of education among Nations by the Pearson education firm, and reported in the International Business Times ranked the US in 17th place among 40 countries studied.

Here one can go from kindergarden to college degrees without having any exposure to the visual arts, unless that is the actual college major.

Schools that do not teach who Edward Hopper was won't be discussing Paul Strand either.

So of course, let's cut all funding for arts education in public schools, and let's finally get rid of that National Endowment for the Arts while we're at it, we could rank even lower if we all put our minds to it.

Nov 29 12 12:12 pm Link

Photographer

LLOYD WRIGHT

Posts: 664

Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom

you mean you hadn't heard of me!!! hehehe big_smile

Nov 29 12 12:14 pm Link

Photographer

toesup

Posts: 1051

Templeton, California, US

LLOYD WRIGHT wrote:
you mean you hadn't heard of me!!! hehehe big_smile

Yes Frank...

Nov 29 12 12:17 pm Link

Photographer

Simmagination

Posts: 3129

Westminster, Maryland, US

That's because photographers are not really artists- they just push a button tongue

http://i1237.photobucket.com/albums/ff473/texaslady1960/emoticons/th_duck.gif


(I keeed I keeed!!!!)

Nov 29 12 12:18 pm Link

Photographer

name removed3

Posts: 264

Boston, Massachusetts, US

ask me about art or any medium and I can name names. Ask me about football or some shit and I don't really care.

Nov 29 12 12:19 pm Link

Photographer

M Pandolfo Photography

Posts: 12116

Tampa, Florida, US

toesup wrote:
But Swannell, Clarke, Bailey, Donovan,Lichfield were all household names in the UK in the 70's and the 80's..
.. especially Bailey and Lichfield!..

And you have heard of non of them?.. yeeessshh..

I can't say I've heard of Swannell or Lichfield so I can't imagine Martha at the local Walmart has.

Other than Helmut Newton I can't imagine most people on the street would have heard of the others. Even the incorrigible and notorious Bailey wouldn't be known to many average joes.

I'd say there are a handful that are known, or at least the names are familiar...Dorothea Lange. Sally Mann. Annie Liebowitz? Diane Arbus maybe?

OK, so only female photographers are memorable lol.

Males? Newton...Ansel Adams, of course. Edward Weston? That might be a reach. And maybe only Newton because every cheesy bachelor had some of his prints up at one point.

But it's not fair to compare with Masters like Da Vinci, Rembrandt, etc. They had a BIT of a head start.

Nov 29 12 12:25 pm Link

Model

JoJo

Posts: 25558

Clearwater, Florida, US

toesup wrote:
So if those here don't know of photographers of the recent past, how do you expect the public to know their names...

Mathew Brady
Irving Klaw
Richard Avedon
Bill Brandt
Cartier-Bresson
Elliott Erwitt
Edward and Brett Weston
Horst P. Horst
George Hurrell
Yousuf Karsh
Man Ray
Irving Penn
Herb Ritts
Andy Warhol

How many of those do you know of?..

PS One of the photographers on my original list was American!

Many of these are well known, but within the closed circle of the industry.


One photographer has become a household name but because of his devious/unscrupulous/unethical methods has cast a tainted view on all photographers... some guy named "Papa Razzi"

Nov 29 12 12:33 pm Link