Richard Avedon

Names that Changed the Fashion Photography Industry Forever


When it comes to fashion, all the attention goes to the stunning outfits and gorgeous models who wear them. But without a talented photographer there to capture it all, it’s impossible to convey the allure and excitement of the apparel.

We’ve compiled a list of people who entered the fashion industry with a desire to give us a closer, more passionate look at the beautiful clothing and accessories available. Of all the great fashion photographers that have existed in our time, the following used their creativity and talent to provide images that not only generated sales but also influenced the next generations of photographers.

Helmut Newton (October 31, 1920 — January 23, 2004)


This award-winning fashion photographer changed Harper’s BAZAAR, Vogue, and other top fashion magazines across the globe. He pushed the envelope with his provocative black and white images that often featured nude models — a bold, controversial style in the early 20th century. Before becoming a photographer in Australia, Newton survived the Holocaust in Germany and was also imprisoned in Singapore for a time.

His greatest achievements include being awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by France, the Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz by Germany, and the Chevalier des Arts, Lettres et Science by Monaco. Newton was also given the Life Legend Award for Lifetime Achievement in Magazine Photography in 1999 by Life Magazine.

Richard Avedon (May 15, 1923 – October 1, 2004)


Richard Avedon is considered one of the most iconic fashion photographers ever to grace the industry. Using unconventional techniques and his unique style, he shook things up by photographing models that showed emotion and were in action. For this, his obituary read: “his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.”

Avedon began as a staff photographer for Harper’s BAZAAR and rose to chief photographer. He eventually moved to Vogue and became the lead photographer, shooting memorable campaign ads for Calvin Klein Jeans and other top brands. Thanks to Avedon, future fashion photographers had the courage to take risks much like he did while working.

Irving Penn (June 16, 1917 — October 7, 2009


An American photographer whose work spanned six decades, Irving Penn is credited with revolutionizing and perhaps inventing what we think of as fashion photography. His 1950 cover of Vogue was the first black-and-white photo featured on the magazine’s cover since the advent of color photography in 1932, and boldly introduced not only a new advent in fashion, but in photographing fashion.

Moving from creating situational contexts to display fashion in the 1940s through stark, high-contrast opulence, surrealism, and focus on fine detail, Penn tirelessly pioneered shifting perspectives and aesthetics in his work. His stark black-and-white photography has attained icon status. Known as a modernist, he was also a great portrait and still live photographer, famous for capturing iconic artists at different times and in different styles as well as experimenting with ethnographic photography around the world.

Deborah Turbeville (July 6, 1932 – October 24, 2013)

If you’re into fashion photography that evokes a darker emotion, you can thank Deborah Turbeville. She is known for providing content that went against the common trends of the early 1970s, when models were always shot in well-lit and unprovocative situations. Her photographs boasted an edgy and mysterious feel that few could match at the time.

Born in Massachusetts, Turbeville got her start as a fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar. Eventually she became a photographer who provided work for countless notable publications and fashion advertisements, including Macy’s, Bruno Magli, and Ralph Lauren. Along with her style, Turbeville was also known for avoiding gender stereotypes and choosing models who showed humanity and not just beauty.

Ellen von Unwerth (1954 — Present)


Ellen Von Unwerth is a fashion photographer and director known for her specialty in erotic femininity. But before shooting her first professional photograph, she served as a fashion model for a decade. Her experience in front of the camera is one of the tools she used to become one of the most prominent fashion photographers today.

After gaining fame for her photographs of German supermodel Claudia Schiffer, she went on to provide work for Vogue, Interview, Vanity Fair, and more. Many of her films have received awards, and and she’s also directed music videos for notable stars like Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, and Duran Duran.

Steven Meisel (June 5, 1954 — Present)


If there’s one person all aspiring models dream of working with today, it’s Meisel. He’s not only shot every cover of Vogue Italia since 1988 but also has the privilege of photographing Madonna for her ground-breaking 1992 book “Sex.” Meisel has shot campaigns for everything from Calvin Klein and Versace to Valentino and Louis Vuitton.

But more so than his work, Meisel has helped change fashion photography by proving that a photographer has the best eye for spotting the best models in the industry. He has proved this by turning nobodies like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and countless other women into some of the most recognizable models in the world.

Mario Testino (October 30, 1954 — Present)



You can’t become a fashion photographer and get far without knowing the name of Mario Testino. One of the most desired photographers today, Testino has worked for Vogue, V Magazine, Vanity Fair, and other top international fashion magazines. He has created countless images for top brands like Michael Kors, Gucci, Versace, Chanel, and more.

His ability to create unforgettable work is credited to his practice of not seeing models as blank canvases, which is what other photographers prefer. Instead, Testino sees his models as people, allowing him to convey their human beauty. Testino has also helped catapult many models into stardom, including some (like Gisele Bündchen) who no one else wanted to work with.

What other fashion photographers do you look to for inspiration? Let us know in the comments below?

The White Background

The white background is something that should be talked about in relation to photography, since so many different types of photographers (from fashion photography to art photography to commercial photography) use it in so many different ways. Two notable photographers – Richard Avedon and Terry Richardson – are both known for their use of stark white backgrounds and portraits of celebrities, but in vastly different ways. It just goes to show what creative minds can do with a very simple space.

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon is arguably the most influential ‘white background’ photographer of all time. It’s almost impossible to enter a photography classroom and find students who have never heard his name. He was primarily an American fashion and portrait photographer, and is well known for his images of celebrities (as well as others) who helped define America’s style and culture. He worked for a handful of fashion magazines, breaking out of the norm of fashion photography of the day to ensure that his models showed emotion in his images – something that many fashion photographers had not done before. Instead of focusing merely on the ‘fashion’ of the time, Avedon used the stark white background to almost force viewers into looking deeper into the emotions of those he used as models.

Richard Avedon
Richard Avedon, self-portrait, Photographer

Richard Avedon

Terry Richardson

Terry Richardson, on the other hand, is arguably the most controversial photographer of this day (although I hardly want to give him the credit of even having that title). While articles of his mistreatment of young women and models litter the Internet, somehow he still has managed to photograph celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, and even Obama. In many of his images, he gets his models to pose as Terry himself, giving them his glasses and posing in the traditional creepy way he usually does (see photographs below). While Avedon shot beautiful large-format portraits on a stark white background, Richardson often uses the white wall of an apartment and any camera he can get his hands on. You can tell when you’re looking at a Terry Richardson image when the models are on a stark white background and a flash has been fired directly at them. He focuses less on the technical aspect of photography and more on his ‘minimalist’ style.

Terry Richardson

Terry Richardson
Terry Richardson Photography
Terry Richardson

^ This is Richardson himself

Morten Koldby

Perhaps a lesser-known name in the photographic world, Danish photographer Morten Koldby also uses the stark white background in his aesthetic – though in a different way than those above. He is most well known for his minimalist animal portraits, all shot on a white background and slightly de-saturated in color. He treats the animals almost as if they are human models, with many of them looking straight at the camera. While he uses human subjects in his work as well, his animal portraits set him apart from the rest.

Morten Koldby

Morten Koldby

Morten Koldby

Andrew Zuckerman

Andrew Zuckerman is best known for his high-definition, hyper-realistic photographs set on, what else, a stark white background. Yet, even he finds a way to make the white background his own – focusing on subjects ranging from humans to birds to flowers. Looking at a Zuckerman photograph, you can almost feel yourself right next to the real subject he has photographed. His images are so sharp and so clean that it’s almost impossible to tell what is an image and what is real. The only thing keeping you from jumping away from an image of a huge bird with its wings outstretched is the fact that it – luckily – is only 2D.

Andrew Zuckerman

Andrew Zuckerman

Andrew Zuckerman

Commercial Advertisements

When speaking about white backgrounds in photography, it’s almost impossible to overlook that fact that many commercial photographs (often used in advertisements) are taken on a white background as well. Take a look at the CoverGirl advertisement below:

Cover Girl

There’s a beautiful lady on a perfectly white background, yet how does she differ from the models that Avedon or Richardson use in their photographs? Since this photograph has been transformed into the ad it is supposed to be, it’s easy to determine the fact that this photograph is used to sell a product. Oftentimes, commercial photographers use white backgrounds and negative space to give companies a clean slate on which to write their copy. But would this photograph still be considered “commercial photography” if the completed ad was not placed on top of it? While it can certainly be argued that Avedon, Koldby, and Zuckerman’s photographs are all more emotive and thought-out than the CoverGirl ad, are Richardson’s? Where does one draw the line between commercial and art – especially when the subjects and background are seemingly the same?

While some photographers feel too confined and limited within a studio space, the white background offers almost limitless possibilities. Since photographers cannot rely on context to create an interesting photograph, they are forced to think outside the box and create an image that is full of emotion and power. What would you do if all you had was a white background?