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Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons

I recently heard three different photographers recount stories where they heard about younger people who were asked to name “great” photographers. Each sadly shared the story of someone calling out the name of a well-known Flickr photographer. Another named a prominent software teacher. A third said he thought his little brother was a “great” photographer. (His 8-year-old brother.)

Now I’m really not interested in picking a fight – nor will I be brought into one by my younger audience on this point – but for those who have an open mind (a commodity in very short supply these days) I want to submit the names of some TRUELY great photographers. If you’ve never heard of them, then you should get busy studying them. These are photographers from the old days. They made award-winning photos in the days before 51-point autofocus, 9-FPS, liveview mode, and useable ISO 3200.

Photographers like Minor White, Edward Weston, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gordon Parks, Neil Leifer, Walter Iooss, Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I could go on, but my guess is several of my audience members don’t know half the names on the list. And frankly, that’s a shame.

These pioneers still have much to teach all of us. I’ve studied the work of each of the photographers on this list, and am better for it. While some people seem to think that any of the old photographic rules should be broken just for the heck of it, learning the rules before you break them makes you a better shooter.

Spend 15 minutes today searching Google about these people. Know just a little bit about the history of the craft you love.

Then the next time you hear a conversation about “great” photographers, interject some of these names.

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