1° – Mert & Marcus
Mert & Marcus, who are Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, top the list for multiple reasons — the breadth of their work across publications (Vogue USA, Vogue Italia, W Magazine, Pop Magazine, Numéro, and more) and brands (Louis Vuitton, Missoni, Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Kenzo, Miu Miu, and more), their unique style since joining forces in the mid 90s, and their ability to make innovative use of digital technology. Their work boasts perfection, both in their photography and in the presentation of their subjects, which is a result of fine-tuned craft and attention to appearance. In the genre of fashion photography, where perfection is paramount, Mert & Marcus are undoubtedly, and continually, at the top of the game.
2 ° -Nick Knight
Nick Knight came up through fashion, beginning with a book of photographs titled Skinheads that he released in 1982 while still a student in the U.K. He was soon noticed by i-D Magazine, Yohji Yamamoto, and Peter Saville, and has now shot campaigns for the likes of Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Jil Sander, Lancôme, Levi Strauss, Yves Saint Laurent, and more. He’s shown work internationally and was even appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2010 Birthday Honors.
In November 2000, Knight launched SHOWStudio.com, a site dedicated to cutting-edge fashion media. It’s been recognized as a huge contribution to the fashion world in its experimental nature and its wide variety of top-notch, influential contributors.
3 ° – Inez & Vinoodh
Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin have been unstoppable since they joined forces in 1986. Their talent was noticed by the fashion world after they created successful fine art projects together, notably for Lawina, MoMA PS1, and BLVD Magazine. They’ve challenged, reinvented, and rejuvenated fashion photography in ways no one can deny, winning countless awards for their work with Vogue, Paris Vogue, Vogue Italia, W, Visionaire, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Uomo Vogue, Interview, and others. They’ve also done iconic campaigns for houses Yves Saint Laurent, Balmain, Nina Ricci, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Isabel Marant, Giuseppe Zanotti, Lanvin Homme, Miu Miu, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and more. Their legacy thus far has been that of being pioneers in digital photography and creating a style of their own in the fashion photography world.
4 ° -Steven Meisel
Steven Meisel’s career started with work for Vogue and W. The fashion and music worlds became more aware of him through his photographs for Madonna’s 1992 book, Sex. From a young age, he was obsessed with beauty and models, who at the time were Twiggy, Veruschka, and Jean Shrimpton. The story goes that at twelve years old, he would have his girl friends call agencies, pretending to be secretaries of Richard Avedon, so he could get pictures of the models. Although he studied fashion photography at Parsons, he got the attention of Seventeen Magazine, after they saw the portfolio photos he took for his model friends as favors. His career is also marked by launching the careers of designers, stylists, make-up artists, hair-stylists, and models who he “discovered,” such as Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Kristy Turlington, Lara Stone, Coco Rocha, and Raquel Zimmerman, who he’d feature in Vogue and Prada ad campaigns. He’s also credited for launching the career of Ross Van Der Heide after he showed his work to Anna Sui. He continues to photograph every cover of Vogue Italia, maintaining a close relationship with its editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani.
5 ° – Mario Testino
Mario Testino is such an iconic and legendary photographer by now that it’s hard to believe he grew up wanting to be a priest, or that he dyed his hair pink to get noticed when he did realize he wanted to be a photographer. He’s shot an overwhelming number of celebrities and cultural icons, from Diana, the Princess of Wales to Emma Watson, Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Kristen Stewart, Gisele Bündchen, and Lady Gaga. He and stylist Carine Roitfeld are credited with reviving Gucci in the mid-90s with their groundbreaking, provocative ad campaigns. He’s continued to shoot for nearly every magazine, in addition to Burberry, Gucci, Versace, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Estee Launder, Michael Kors, and more. He continues to receive royal commissions, and in 2002 had a massively successful show at The National Portrait Gallery in London titled Portraits, which went on to tour in other cities internationally.
6 ° – Bruce Weber
Bruce Weber is legendary. He’s shot some of the most iconic Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Versace ads to have ever been made, and continues to shoot for Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Elle, and Interview. He got his start atGQ in the late 70s, but received widespread recognition for his Calvin Klein ads in the late 80s and early 90s for his in-your-face black and white images of both heterosexual and homosexual couples. He has also collaborated extensively with Ralph Lauren and done music videos for the Pet Shop Boys.
7 ° – Patrick Demarchelier
Patrick Demarchelier’s career began to take off in the early 90s, when Elle, Marie Claire, 20 Ans Magazine, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar took notice of his immense talent. He solidified a 12-year collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar, has shot covers for nearly every major fashion magazine, and did iconic ad campaigns for Dior, Louis Vuitton, Celine, TAG Heuer, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Lacoste, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. In 2005, he was awarded the contract for the Pirelli calendar. He continues to be a force in fashion photography and has interestingly been referenced in The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City, and America’s Next Top Model.
8 ° – Rankin
John Rankin Waddell, who goes by the name, Rankin, has had an immense photography career so far, of which fashion is just the tip of the iceberg. He, along with his partner, Jefferson Hack, started Dazed & Confused magazine, and since, he’s also started Another, Another Man, and HUNGER — all magazines that champion top-notch photography and art direction. His work for numerous other publications quickly became fine art exhibitions, ad campaigns, documentaries, and music videos, and he’s found brilliant ways to connect his work with philanthropic efforts. In short, Rankin’s influence as a fashion photographer has launched the careers of others to unexpectedly incredible proportions.
9 ° – Juergen Teller
Juergen Teller’s raw, overexposed style has made his work unmistakable. Mostly shooting in color, he has shot every Marc Jacobs campaign since 1998, including ones featuring celebrities like Winona Ryder, Sofia Coppola, Rufus Wainwright, M.I.A., and others. He tends to include himself in his photographs — in 2005, he photographed himself with Cindy Sherman for a Marc Jacobs ad. Teller also has close collaborative relationships with Helmut Lang, Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, and Céline. He has shown in a multitude of group and individual exhibitions, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Venice Biennale. In 2008, he and Marc released the book Juergen Teller: Marc Jacobs Advertising 1997-2008, which quickly sold out via pre-order.
10° – Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz is most known for her portrait photography and editorial work, most recently for a multitude of Vanity Fair issues since the 80s, yet her work crosses over to fashion. However, her career began as a staff photographer forRolling Stone Magazine, which she eventually became chief photographer for. She went on tour with The Rolling Stones in 1975, work for Vanity Fair in 1980, and launch Numérous exhibitions, books, and collaborations since. Many of her images have a huge place in our culture today, including the December 8, 1980 image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, five hours before he was shot and killed. She photographed Queen Elizabeth II for her official Virginia state visit picture and the controversial Miley Cyrus topless Vanity Fair cover.
11° – Ellen von Unwerth
Ellen von Unwerth’s style is erotic and feminine, with an understanding of beauty that’s all her own. Interestingly enough, she was a model for ten years before pursuing a career as a photographer. The fashion world took notice of her skill after she shot Claudia Schiffer, and since, she’s shot for Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview, Arena, L’Uomo Vogue, and more, in addition to publishing books and winning countless awards. She’s also known for shooting the early GUESS Jeans campaigns, which she shot again for the company’s 30th anniversary.
12° – Terry Richardson
Terry Richardson’s name is nearly synonymous with fashion photography, if not the entire genre of photography itself. His past as a serious bass guitarist in a punk rock band suggested that he wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of his photographer father, but he did, and has done incredibly well for himself. His style has always been highly sexualized and controversial, causing some to say that he’s re-instilled rawness into fashion photography, and causing others to say that he takes it too far.
While his work includes — but is not limited to — fashion photography, he’s shot for brands Marc Jacobs, Aldo, Supreme, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent, and more, and has done covers and spreads for GQ, Vogue, Vanity Fair, i-D, Vice, Harper’s Bazaar, Dazed and Confused, and others. He had his first solo show TERRYWOOD at OHWOW Gallery in LA earlier this year.
13°- Mariano Vivanco
Mariano Vivanco, like many photographers on this list, got his start at Dazed & Confused. While working for the magazine in 2001, he met and began collaborating with stylist Nicola Formichetti (now Lady Gaga’s fashion director) on numerous iconic covers. Since, he’s published seven books for Dolce & Gabbana and photographed extensively for Vogue Hommes Nippon, Numéro, Numéro Homme, i-D, Dazed & Confused, Hercules, Details, GQ Italy, GQ Spain, Wonderland, Allure, Elle, and Vogue. He has three portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, of Lily Cole, Nicola Formichetti, and Rafael Bonachella. Having shot a ton of celebrities at the early stages of their careers, he published the book Ninety Five Chapel Market in 2008, which included Seinna Miller, David Gandy, Lily Cole, and others. He has recently done extensive collaborations with Formichetti, Mugler, and Lady Gaga, which includes photographing her for i-D Magazine’s “Exhibitionist Issue,” wearing Mugler.
14° -Steven Klein
Steven Klein studied painting before moving into his career as a photographer. His ad campaigns for Calvin Klein, D&G, Alexander McQueen, and Nike, in addition to spreads and covers for Vogue, i-D, Numéro, W, and Arena, catapulted him quickly into a realm of the greats. He’s collaborated extensively with Madonna, most notably on multiple W Magazine editorials and a traveling installation called X-STaTIC PRO=CeSS, which also included a limited-release book. His fashion photography, as a whole, has led him to work with other pop stars — Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Britney Spears — in both photo and film.
15° – Peter Lindbergh
Peter Lindbergh is a fashion photography icon, interpreting the medium ingeniously in both commercial and fine art capacities since the late 70s. He got his start at Vogue but was quickly noticed by The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Allure, and Rolling Stone. He shoots mostly in black and white, inspired by early German cinema and the Berlin art scene of the 1920s. In 1988, he shot Anna Wintour for her first cover of Vogue. In January 1990, he shot the iconic Vogue cover featuring Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington. Besides his commercial work, his 1986 exhibition put on by Comme des Garçons was a massive hit, his 1996 book 10 Women by Peter Lindbergh sold over 100k copies, and his shows and retrospectives at Bunkamura Museum of Art, the Met, and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art have broken attendance records. He’s ambitiously ventured into film and other genres of photography, always knowing how to create a classic image.
16 ° – Craig McDean
Craig McDean had been trained as a car mechanic before studying photography. He began as an assistant to Nick Knight and did editorials for i-D and The Face, before getting noticed by Jil Sander, Calvin Klein, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, W, andAnother Magazine. He now shoots campaigns for Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, and Estée Lauder.
17° – Alasdair McLellan
Alasdair McLellan’s work can be found across publications, from W Magazine toSelf Service, Vogue, V, LOVE, Another, i-D, and more. He’s shot ad campaigns for Emporio Armani, David Beckham for H&M, Equipment, Calvin Klein, Y3, and Longchamp, and in 2012, he photographed the popular image of Kate Moss smoking a cigarette for Supreme.
18° – David LaChapelle
David LaChapelle was put on in the photography world by none other than Andy Warhol, who noticed his talent, and assigned him work for Interview Magazine. His work hasn’t been strictly fashion or commercial, but much of his success can be attributed to his blurring of editorial, fine art, and fashion. He’s shot iconic spreads, covers, and ad campaigns for Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, and i-D, in addition to a plethora of celebrity portraiture. His style has retained its hyper-realistic, highly saturated aesthetic, often making social commentary.
19° – Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld is mostly known as the head designer and creative director of Chanel, but his photography career is lasting and impressive. Among his notable projects are Visionaire 23: The Emperor’s New Clothes (series of nude models and celebrities), a 2005 V cover of Mariah Carey, a 2011 VMAN cover of Kanye West, and his 2012 Little Black Jacket exhibition.
20° – Mario Sorrenti
Mario Sorrenti became well-known from his nudes for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaarand ad campaigns for Calvin Klein. Always provocative and stunning, his work forW, Self Service, Vanity Fair, Another Man, Lancôme, Paco Rabanne, Benetton, and the Pirelli Calendar 2012 is equally impressive. He continues to shoot and show work internationally, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.