17 Famous Street Photographers – Looking at the Most Famous Street Photographers in the World

famous street photographers

Street photography has captivated the world with its raw, emotional, and candid portrayal of urban life. The unique ability to capture the essence of society through a lens has earned many individuals international acclaim as masters in this enchanting art form.

In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to 20 famous street photographers who have left an indelible mark on the history of photography. From pioneers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Vivian Maier to modern visionaries such as Joel Meyerowitz and Bruce Gilden, these artists have inspired generations with their powerful images that unveil the beauty of everyday moments.

1. Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier

  • Birth Year: 1926
  • Death Year: 2009
  • Nationality: American
  • Art Movement: Street Photography
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Children
  • Notable Artwork: “Girl With Flowers”

Vivian Maier was an American street photographer. Her unique ability to enter into the psychological space of children made her photography stand out among her contemporaries.

Maier had a knack for making people feel flattered by her attention while taking their photos. This enabled Maier to capture raw emotion from real-life scenarios that showcased untapped depths of humanity with every click of her shutter button.

Some of her most famous works include “Girl With Flowers” and “Man With Cigar”.

2. Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

  • Birth Year: 1908
  • Death Year: 2004
  • Nationality: French 
  • Art Movement: Cubist
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Photojournalism 
  • Notable Artwork: “Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare”

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer known for his groundbreaking work in street photography. A master of candid photography and an early adopter of the versatile 35mm film format, he captured some of the most iconic images in the history of photography.

Henri Cartier Bresson is perhaps the best street photographer when it comes to capturing urban landscapes in such a way that it appears beautiful. He remains a major influence to many budding photographers.

His everyday life shots are capable of capturing subjects from street scenes to modern life.

3. Bruce Gilden

  • Birth Year: 1946
  • Death Year: Still living as of 2023
  • Nationality: American
  • Art Movement: Contemporary
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Gangsters, people experiencing homelessness
  • Notable Artwork: “Go: Standing Out From the Crowd.”

Bruce Gilden has become a highly regarded figure in the world of street photography due to his unmistakably unique style. Known for capturing candid close-up photographs of unsuspecting people on the bustling streets of New York City, Gilden’s work is often seen as confrontational and unapologetic.

He is among the most respected photographers. His ability to find a decisive moment on the city streets and represent it using simple street signs explains why his street photos are so highly regarded. 

4. Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand

  • Birth Year: 1928
  • Death Year: 1984
  • Nationality: American
  • Art Movement: Contemporary 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Unfocused pictures
  • Notable Artwork: “Los Angeles 1964”

Garry Winogrand was a photographer who rose to fame for his groundbreaking street photography during the mid-20th century.

His work often showcased the raw realities of everyday people’s lives and struggles in urban centers like New York City and Los Angeles.

5. Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz

  • Birth Year: 1938
  • Death Year: Still alive as of 2023
  • Nationality: American
  • Art Movement: Contemporary
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: People, color photography
  • Notable Artwork: “Aftermath – World Trade Center”

Joel Meyerowitz is an American street photographer and one of the early advocates for color photography in fine art photography. He studied painting and medical drawing at Ohio State University before committing fully to his love for photography.

Meyerowitz’s work focuses on capturing urban life in New York City through his lens, showcasing the energy and vibrancy of city living.

6. Robert Frank

  • Birth Year: 1924
  • Death Year: 2019
  • Nationality: Swiss American
  • Art Movement: Beat Circle 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Underrepresented people
  • Notable Artwork: “Trolleys in New Orleans”

Robert Frank was a Swiss American street photographer. He is considered one of the most influential photographers of all time and his book “The Americans” is regarded as a masterpiece that changed the rules of photography.

Frank’s notable characteristics included capturing real-life situations which reflected social and political issues of the time.

7. Helen Levitt

Helen Levitt

  • Birth Year: 1913
  • Death Year: 2009
  • Nationality: American
  • Art Movement: Contemporary
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Children
  • Notable Artwork: Black-and-white photo of masked children in a doorway (untitled)

Throughout her career, Levitt continued to document the changing urban landscape, revealing the essence and vitality of street life. Her photographs serve as a lasting testament to her artistic vision and her contribution to the field of street photography.

Helen Levitt’s legacy as a masterful photographer continues to be celebrated, and her work remains influential in the realm of documentary and street photography. She was an early advocate for viewing photography as a serious art. 

8. William Klein

William Klein

  • Birth Year: 1926
  • Death Year: 2022
  • Nationality: American/ French
  • Art Movement: Contemporary 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Close-ups of people
  • Notable Artwork: Photograph taken on St. Patrick’s Day (untitled)

William Klein was a renowned American-born French photographer and filmmaker. His ironic approach to media and portrayal of the energy of great cities marked his strikingly original photographs that satirized the world of fashion.

His artistry attracted adoration from avant-garde art communities on the Left Bank in the 1960s and beyond. 

Apart from his photographic endeavors, Klein also directed several influential films, including the documentary “Muhammad Ali: The Greatest” and the satirical feature “Mr. Freedom.” Klein’s contributions to photography, fashion, and filmmaking have had a lasting impact, influencing subsequent generations of artists and photographers. 

9. Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter

  • Birth Year: 1923
  • Death Year: 2013
  • Nationality: American 
  • Art Movement: Contemporary 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Blurred or unclear shots of people
  • Notable Artwork: “Color Street”

Saul Leiter made notable contributions to street photography. His background in painting influenced his unique approach to street photography by incorporating artistic techniques into his work.

One of Leiter’s most notable characteristics was his pioneering use of color in a time when black-and-white photography dominated the art form.

While he gained recognition relatively late in his career, Leiter’s photographs are now highly regarded for their artistic merit and their influence on contemporary photography. His work has been exhibited worldwide and has inspired countless photographers with its unique blend of street photography and painterly aesthetics. 

Saul Leiter’s artistic legacy continues to resonate, reminding us of the beauty that can be found in the everyday and the power of color to evoke emotions and tell stories through photography. He is one of the most respected photographers thanks to his ability to capture a singular decisive moment and daily life. 

10. Lee Friedlander

  • Birth Year: 1934
  • Death Year: Living as of 2023
  • Nationality: American
  • Art Movement: Contemporary 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Streets, people
  • Notable Artwork: Series of jazz musician photos (untitled)

Lee Friedlander is known for his unique approach to documenting the streets and people of America. He is considered a “social landscape” documentarian and is frequently associated with other urban photographers such as Danny Lyon.

Friedlander’s style involves producing photo books with fragmented, uncoordinated compositions that create a sense of unease while still capturing the essence of American culture.

A photographer of everyday life, Lee Friedlander is highly regarded among street photographers. Lee Friedlander is one of the most famous street photographers thanks to his ability to create an iconic image from very little.

11. Elliott Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt

  • Birth Year: 1928
  • Death Year: Living as of 2023
  • Nationality: French/ American
  • Art Movement: Modernist
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Still life, humor
  • Notable Artwork: Many photographs of dogs (untitled)

Elliott Erwitt is a famous street photographer. Known for his candid and humorous black-and-white photography, he captured everyday moments that often went unnoticed by others.

Erwitt’s notable artwork includes images of dogs, which he has been photographing since the 1940s, as well as iconic shots from New York City and other urban areas. 

His photographs have been exhibited worldwide and published in various books and magazines. Elliott Erwitt’s unique perspective and ability to capture the beauty and humor of the human experience have made him one of the most influential and beloved photographers of our time. His work continues to inspire photographers and evoke smiles and laughter from viewers around the world.

12. Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus

  • Birth Year: 1923
  • Death Year: 1971
  • Nationality: American
  • Art Movement: Contemporary
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Marginalized people
  • Notable Artwork: “Arbus’s Identical Twins”

Diane Arbus was an American photographer and writer. She gained fame for her hand-held black-and-white images of marginalized people such as midgets, circus freaks, strippers, carnival performers, nudists, and people with dwarfism. As street photographers go, her work stands out. 

Her photography revealed the humanity behind these “outsider” communities in a raw and unapologetic way. Some of Diane’s notable artwork includes her distinctive portraits taken during the ’50s and ’60s that showed how crazy yet beautiful New Yorkers were.

With her controversial art pieces centered around the human condition and artistic expression, Diane paved the way for future documentary photographers to explore unconventional Subjects while still capturing beauty through their lenses. As one of the most famous street photographers, her street photography is well known. 

13. Josef Koudelka

Josef Koudelka

  • Birth Year: 1938
  • Death Year: Living as of 2023
  • Nationality: French 
  • Art Movement: Contemporary 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Black-and-white humanist photography 
  • Notable Artwork: “The 1968 Prague Invasion”

Josef Koudelka is a French photographer. He is renowned for his black-and-white humanist photography that captures emotions and the essence of humanity. He is one of the more famous street photographers.

He is a master photographer, gifted at capturing the spirit of a diverse community

Being a member of Magnum Photos, he has won numerous awards such as the Prix Nadar in 1978, among many others. His photographs have been recognized as some of the most important visual records, especially those showcasing British society during the 1980s.

14. Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau

  • Birth Year: 1912
  • Death Year: 1994
  • Nationality: French
  • Art Movement: Modernist 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Parisian streets
  • Notable Artwork:  “The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville”

Robert Doisneau was one of the most significant French photographers. Known for his humanist take on street photography, he captured life’s strange juxtapositions and beautiful moments on the streets of Paris. His street photography ranks among even the most famous street photographers.

One featured famous work is “The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville,” a perfect representation of love captured candidly in a moment that would make history. During World War II, Doisneau documented the Resistance movement through his photographs showcasing his bravery to capture important events during wartime. He may be the most famous street photographer.

15. Jill Freedman

  • Birth Year: 1939
  • Death Year: 2019
  • Nationality: American 
  • Art Movement: Contemporary 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Circus culture
  • Notable Artwork: “Double Trouble”

Jill Freedman was a notable American documentary and street photographer who captured intimate, gritty moments of life on the streets. 

Based in New York City, her award-winning work is included in the permanent collections of several museums. She is highly recognized among other famous street photographers. Her candid moments capturing fleeting moments are what make her an influence for many famous street photographers.

Freedman’s photography focused primarily on street life and documentary subjects such as circus culture. Her most notable artwork includes “Street Cops,” which showcased the lives of police officers in Times Square during the late ’70s and early ’80s, as well as “Bears at Circus Vargas in California.” Through her photographs, she provided a glimpse into everyday life that often went unnoticed by others.

16. Daidō Moriyama

Daidō Moriyama

  • Birth Year: 1938
  • Death Year: Living as of 2023
  • Nationality: Japanese 
  • Art Movement: Contemporary 
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Urban spaces
  • Notable Artwork: “Memory of a Dog 2”

Daido Moriyama is a Japanese photographer known for his captivating black-and-white imagery that confronts the breakdown of traditional values. His work captures urban environments with a focus on the cultural values and social commentary within them.

Considered one of the most influential figures in street photography today, Moriyama continues to capture our collective imaginations with his unique perspective on contemporary urban spaces. He is one of the most famous street photographers and is often considered one of the best street photographers.

17. Walker Evans

Walker Evans

  • Birth Year: 1903
  • Death Year: 1975
  • Nationality: American 
  • Art Movement: Modernist
  • Notable Characteristics/Subject Matter: Working-class people
  • Notable Artwork: “Couple at Coney Island, New York”

Walker Evans was an American photographer known for his work documenting American working-class life. He often captured people and their surroundings in a documentary style.

One of his most iconic portraits is that of Allie Mae Burroughs, which he took while working for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. His street photography is known for its depth and modern art techniques.