Have you ever wondered why famous war photographers have chosen this topic as their main specialization? Are they adrenaline-junkie and like working in war zones? Maybe these war photographers see their calling in presenting such horrific situations and forming a negative attitude towards violence in the audience.
20 Famous War Photographers
Every shooter finds his/her unique way to viewers’ hearts. I have selected 20 best war photographers, whose names are well-known all over the globe for their original talent, dedication to the work and realistic representation of things happening in areas affected by armed conflicts.
Location: Australia + United States
Adam Ferguson was born in 1978 in Australia. Now he is a New-York based freelance photographer with a genuine interest in war photojournalism. Looking through his projects, you can notice that he draws viewers’ attention to geopolitical conflicts and regular people, who suffer from them.
His career as a war photographer started when he visited the capital of Afghanistan. He had to concentrate on covering the heroin use in that area and suddenly felt the impetus to get closer to the frontline, to observe and show the lives of young soldiers. One of his projects is simply a series of portraits of soldiers, who sat in a media room, looking at a computer screen and reading short letters sent by their relatives.
At some point in his career, he even felt guilty for making this a part of his job. Anyway, Adam Ferguson continued to work in this genre and has become one of the best war photographers, frequently covering the events in Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Nepal.
«An American soldier» taken by Adam Ferguson
Location: United States
Carolyn Cole (1961) works for the Los Angeles Times on a full-time basis and covers the most dangerous war conflicts in different parts of the planet. She is known for emotion-evoking images she took in Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo and Afghanistan. She lived for 2 months in Afghanistan in 2001 and several weeks in Kosovo during the 1999 crisis. 2002 was the year when Carolyn created one of her most prominent projects depicting the beginning of the siege of Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity, occupied by Palestinian militants.
On May 2, she became one of the peace activists, who came in the building in solidarity with Palestinians. She spent in the region 9 more days and doubled as a news reporter for LA Times. Her achievements were awarded in 2004, when she won the Pulitzer Prize for showing the tragic consequences of civil war in Liberia.
“Running Women” taken by Carolyn Cole
A Russian photographer, Denis Sinyakov, is known for his active lifestyle position and enthusiastic approach to the most burning problems of our modern world. He has taken many photos covering the topic of human rights protection, as well as filmed the concert of Russian punk bank Pussy Riots, acts of the group Femen, and trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Denis was in custody for several months because he took an image of Greenpeace activists on the Arctic Sunrise ship. He became a famous war photographer after he showed a military conflict in South Ossetia, sorrowful events in Andijan, and the US forces in Afghanistan.
He was a staff photographer for Agence France-Presse and Reuters, but decided to work on a freelance basis to have more freedom while choosing what to photograph. From 2014, he regularly travels to the Russian annexed territory, Crimea, and tries to give his viewers a glimpse of how Crimean Tatars live under the pressure from the government.
“Crimean Tatar woman” by Denis Sinyakov
Location: United States
Lynsey Addario is a very brave woman-photojournalist, who has been engaged in war photography for over 15 years. Over this time, she has traveled to many hot areas and took photos of the most serious conflicts and humanitarian crises.
You can easily find her images from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Lebanon. Lynsey states that her first visit to Afghanistan wasn’t dictated by the desire to become a famous war photographer.
She just was interested in the way women lived on that territory. When she arrived in the country, the US invasion of Afghanistan began and did her best to reflect those events. Her professional path wasn’t really smooth, as Lynsey was kidnapped in Fallujah and captured by Gaddafi’s troops in Libya. She claims to be a very lucky person to stay alive, as some of her colleagues were killed.
“Woman fighter” taken by Lynsey Addario
5. Yannis Behrakis Instagram
Location: Yannis Behrakis Instagram
Yannis Behrakis (1960 – 2019) was one of the most prominent war photographers and a Senior Editor with Reuters. His famous war photographs were taken in the most perilous places on the planet, including Chechnya, Afghanistan, Egypt (the uprising of 2011).
He was one of the people who survived an attack in Sierra Leone and together with his team won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for the images of the refugee crisis.
Yannis Behrakis believed that his mission was to present the global event in such a way, so that anybody can say: “I didn’t know”. In 2015, Yannis together with his colleagues took photos in Syria and Afghanistan.
That was the period when he captured the scene that was later called his best picture - a Syrian refugee carrying and kissing his daughter while walking down a road in the rain. Behrakis described this photo as the one that shows a real superhero.
“A refugee carrying his daughter” taken by Yannis Behrakis
Location: Pennsylvania + United States
Carol Guzy is a talented news photographer of America origin. Thanks to her passionate attitude to photographing, dedication and commitment, she was awarded with Pulitzer Prizes 4 times.
Her first prize she got for images of military intervention in Haiti. Carol’s style is characterized by long-form shooting and focus on human life.
She works on news and feature stories, both domestic and worldwide. She believes that her purpose is to show how precious and unique our life is. In her pictures, she tries to depict the horror of war and make her viewers somehow comprehend it. Almost all the time, Carol uses Nikon and the brand has made her their Ambassador. She states that the new Nikon 7Z cameras
are absolutely incredible in low light and allows you to get crisp shots even at high ISO.
“A girl near the ruins of Great Mosque of al-Nuri” taken by Carol Guzy
Location: United States
Ron Haviv (1965) comes from the USA and has dedicated most of this life to war photojournalism. He has attended more than 25 violent conflicts in different countries. Ron documented the Balkans’ events and his pictures were used at the international tribunal at The Hague.
At the moment of paramilitary violence in Panama, President George H.W. Bush relied on Haviv’s images as the ground for American intervention in 1989. Being in the Bosnia city, Ron Haviv took a photo that was later transformed into the symbol of the Yugoslav war.
The image shows a Serbian soldier kicking the body of a civilian. The photographer admits that he makes his photos more beautiful than generally accepted, because he needs to attract people to the images, and only then they are ready to look deeper and see the appalling idea he tries to convey. Such an approach is extensively criticized as many believe that wars have nothing beautiful about them.
“Bosnian and Croatian prisoners of war” taken by Ron Haviv
8. João Silva
Location: Portugal + South Africa
João Silva (1966) is a Portuguese-born war photographer, who now resides in South Africa. He was a representative of the Bang-Bang Club that was created by 4 like-minded famous war photographers.
They won a Pulitzer Prize presenting photos of the end of apartheid in South Africa. In 1993, initiated by the UN, Silva visited Sudan to take images of starving people, who waited for help from the government.
João Silva admits that it was the heartbreaking experience as he had just to take photos of poor adults and children lying on the ground being between death and life. He remembers how soldiers were dragging him away from the kill zone, while he was taking these photos.
He had to document the moment when locals were hurt and killed. João explains that he follows this path because he wants to show the world how hideous every war is.
“A few moments after he stepped on a landmine” taken by João Silva
Location: United States
James Nachtwey is another member of the Bang Bang Club. He was born in America and took up a profession of war photographer long in 1976. More than 40 years he has been visiting the most dangerous places of the world trying to depict an “ugly face of war”.
He got interested in photographing armed clashes after he saw the works of famous Vietnam War photographers and observed several American civil rights movements. The idea of raising awareness about the destructive power of war encouraged Nachtwey to go to Afghanistan, El Salvador, Lebanon, Bosnia, Israel, Kosovo, Pakistan, Iraq, Rwanda, India, Chechnya, and Somalia. All the time James chased raw human emotions during desperate periods of the history.
“A man just liberated from Hutu camp” taken by James Nachtwey
Sir Donald McCullin, CBE, Hon FRPS (1935) has entered the ranks of the best worldwide war photographers thanks to his black and white war photos that keep you astonished with the level of despair they reflect.
During his career, he covered many armed conflicts traveling all over the globe – to Vietnam, Cyprus, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and Biafra. The latter place tremendously affected Donald McCullin and the way he approached photography as he had to shoot starving kids.
He believes that the credo of a war photographer is to show the war without glamorizing it – show everything as it is. Donald was badly wounded in Cambodia, was under arrest in Uganda, deported from Vietnam and had a bounty on his head in Lebanon. Anyway, he never lost his courage and managed not only to take moving images but also help wounded soldiers and civilians. All his famous war photographs are infused with compassion.
“Armed conflict in Northern Ireland” depicted by Donald McCullin
11. Larry Burrows
Larry Burrows (1926 – 1971) was a gifted British photojournalist, who spent nine years documenting the course of the Vietnam War for Life magazine.
His colleagues called him one of the best war photographers with the gut for what he was doing all his life. Larry Burrows was interested not only in the battlefield events, but also in the life of people inhabiting South and North Vietnam. He took photos of locals living under the threat of death and did his best to show their true face – apolitical, hard-working and simple.
One of his remarkable projects is dedicated to the life of a Saigon girl named Tron. She lost her leg in the result of an air attack and Larry helped Tron to recover after the injury. They became good friends. Burrow died in Vietnam in an aviation accident.
“Vietnam soldier” taken by Larry Burrows
Location: Vietnam + United States
Nick Ut (1951) was born in Vietnam and later moved to the US. One of the most well-known Nick’s projects is “The Terror of War”, which shows children in the helicopter trying to escape from bombing during the Vietnam War.
Another widely-recognized photo is entitled “The Napalm Girl”, depicting a small girl Phan Thi Kim Phúc, who lived in Trảng Bàng village in South Vietnam. Her villages and neighboring ones were bombed by The Republic of Vietnam Air Force. The girl’s clothes burnt and she ran naked crying. The girl was brought to a hospital and survived despite burns. Ut’s war photojournalism had a significant impact on the Vietnam War as more public attention was focused on what the US army has made in the country.
“Napalm Girl” taken by Nick Ut
13. Lee Miller Website
Location: United States + France + UK
Lee Miller (1907-1977) is one of the most mysterious personalities among WWII photographers. She was a successful model and then suddenly got interested in photojournalism.
When WWII began, she decided to join the American Army to be in the center of fights and have a chance to capture all the horror. Working for Vogue, she photographed the first use of napalm at the siege of St.Malo. Later Lee Miller documented the liberation of Paris, the Battle of Alsace, she showed how ghastly the Nazi concentration camps were and how people lived after WWII. You can find a famous image of Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathroom having a bath.
“Freed prisoners in Dachau, Germany (1945)” taken by Lee Miller
14. Robert Capa
Location: Hungary + France + the United States
Robert Capa (1913 – 1954) was forced to leave his motherland and then fled from Germany to Paris. There he began his career as a war photographer.
Robert Capa was a very hard-working professional, depicting the events of 5 wars - the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and the First Indochina War.
While documenting the pace of the Spanish Civil War, Robert Capa worked together with the writer Ernest Hemingway. At the beginning of World War II, Capa moved from Paris to America and accompanied the US troops to Europe from 1942 to 1945.
He captured the moment when American troops took over Leipzig. In 1954 the photographer was killed by a land mine while taking images of the French Indochina War.
“Lovers' parting near Nicosia, Sicily” by Robert Capa
15. Gerda Taro
Location: Germany + France
Gerda Taro (1910 – 1937) is a renowned photojournalist, the first woman, who died while taking pictures near the frontline. She got interested in left-wing politics and had to migrate to France, because of the growing influence of the Nazi regime. In France she met Robert Capa, who became her romantic and professional partner.
They traveled to Spain in 1936 and captured the resistance to General Franco’s fascist rebellion. They took many dramatic photos reflecting the realities of that society and became great representatives of World War 2 photographers.
Taro has made a significant influence on the history of photojournalism. She died in a road incident, when an uncontrolled tank crashed into a car with her on board.
“Refugees from Malaga in Almeria, Spain” by Gerda Taro
16. Margaret Bourke-White
Location: United States
Margaret Bourke-White (1904 – 1971) is an American-born woman photojournalist, who made the name for herself by taking a portrait of Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin during World War II when German attacked the Kremlin.
She believed to be the only photographer in Moscow at that time. She accompanied the US troops in North Africa, Italy and Germany and documented fierce battles in great detail.
When the war ended, she showed its devastating effects and destroyed lives in her post war photography project. She continued to work as a photo correspondent for Life magazine
and went to India to take pictures of Pakistan violent conflict.
Her next photo topic was the Korean War. She had an interview with Mohandas K. Gandhi and took several images a couple of hours before he was assassinated in 1948.
“Gandhi spinning wheel” by Margaret Bourke-White
17. Mathew Brady
Location: United States
Mather B. Brady (1822 – 1896) is not just a famous war photographer, but a fundamental personality in this genre. Initially, he chose portrait photography as his specialization and opened a photo studio in NY in 1844.
When the American Civil War began, soldiers came to him to get some professional images for their relatives in case they didn’t return. That’s how he shifted the scope of attention to war shooting and even asked President Lincoln for permission to travel to battlefields and take images there.
He formed a team and together they managed to catch a glimpse of war in its most horrifying guise. The photos that brought them recognition appeared in 1862 under the title “The Dead of Antietam”.
These images shocked viewers with their plausibility as Brady captured the battlefields before the deceased soldiers were removed. Actually, those photos sparked public outcry never seen before.
“A horse killed on the battlefield” by Mathew Brady
18. Alexander Gardner
Location: Scotland + the United States
Alexander Gardner (1821 – 1882) is native of Scotland, but he immigrated to America and joined Mathew Brady’s team. Together they engaged in the Civil War photography project, astonishing society with realistic images of battlefields.
Gardner was the first one to photograph the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest days in American history. Since the press didn’t cover Gardner’s contribution to Brady’s collections very well, his works are often described as those created by Mathew Brady.
Alexander Gardner’s most famous war photographs are President Lincoln on the Battlefield of Antietam (1862) and Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg (1863) and the portraits of Abraham Lincoln.
“Lincoln on the Battlefield of Antietam” by Alexander Gardner
19. George Barnard
Location: United States
George Norman Barnard (1819 – 1902) is one of the first American photographers, who started to use the daguerreotype process
He was also a participant of Mathew Brady’s team and they successfully covered the course of the Civil War. He was appointed as an official army photographer for the Military Division of the Mississippi and documented General Sherman’s march from Tennessee to the sea in 1864 and 1865.
George Barnard’s black and white war photos were bundled into a book, entitled Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, which was recognized as one of the best photographing books of that time. To give his book a unique look, he began experimenting with special cloud negatives to highlight the dramatics of military confrontation.
“Union Army troops in Atlanta (1864)” by George Barnard
20. Roger Fenton
Roger Fenton (1819 – 1869) was at the root of war photojournalism. He got interested in this genre and became famous after covering the Crimean War in 1855.
Since the photography art wasn’t very developed at that period of time, Roger Fenton felt limited in the extent to which he could depict battles, devastations, blood and tears.
Anyway, his pictures look absolutely realistic and that’s what really matters. He photographed besieged Sebastopol, military forces of allies at Kamiesh and Balaclava, most of the world-known leaders of the campaign as well as zouaves, sergeants, soldiers, some engineering stuff and civilian travelers.
“Cossack Bay, Balaklava” by Roger Fenton
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