The history of portrait photography is rather long and colorful! The first portraits we have records of date back to 1840, when Robert Cornelius, a pioneer of photography, made what is considered the first self-portrait. After this debut, portrait studios started springing up rather quickly. Portrait photography became very popular because it allowed anyone to have an image of a loved one or a celebrity without having to hire a painter to create an expensive and time-consuming artwork. As time went by, some portraitists turned out to be truly outstanding in their work and they achieved the status of true masters of portraiture. The following list covers some of the most talented photographers of the 20th century, whose work is highly esteemed by both art critics and the wider public:
1. Sally Mann
Sally Mann is an American portrait photographer who is best known for her large-format, black and white portraits of her children. While this doesn’t sound particularly interesting, what is truly outstanding about Mann’s photographs is the fact that the atmosphere in her works is always in between playful and depressing, suggesting both youth and decay. Her controversial yet extremely alluring works are now included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her portfolio is available here.