Five inescapable documentary photographers that will inspire you

Feb. 10, 2018

Along with the two great icons of documentary photography, Henry Cartier Bresson and Frank Capa, the following five photographers that Guidedoc presents in this list make up a very representative group of the genre. You just need to let yourself be dazzled by their findings in the souls of the humans they portrayed in their real environments.

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Nick Ut (Vietnam)



After his brother Huynh Thanh My died while photographing the Vietnam War, Nick Ut decided to take up the work of his relative when he was only sixteen years old. His photographs of the war would travel the world while he was working for the Asosiated Press. Those images would later make up his photographic work "The Terror of War." The most iconic photograph of this essay is "Children Fleeing an American Napalm Strike" where we see the eviction of a group of Vietnamese children who run away from the black smoke of an explosion that occurred just minutes before.


Arthur Rothstein (United States)



In 1935, Arthur Rothstein was comissioned to document the life of the rural territories of the United States, including the area affected by droughts and sandstorms in the north of Texas, when he would capture “Fleeing to Dust Storm”, a piece that would be considered the most representative of his work. In the image, a father and his eldest son lead the resistance against the wind as they advance, but it is the defensive gesture of the youngest son that gives us the precise opportunity to imagine what it would be like to inhabit a place of such precarious conditions. Rothstein would then apply this sensitivity in various parts of the world not only as a photographer but also as director of several publications.


Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexico)



The great feature of the work of this prodigious Mexican photographer lays in the capacity of his eye to find an unusual aspect within an everyday scene. During his career, Álvarez Bravo knew very well how to surround himself with great personalities of the international artistic scene such as Sergei Eisenstein, Diego Rivera - whose murals he photographed - and André Bretón, who in one of his visits to Mexico was astonished by the empirical surrealist imprint in all his work. Álvarez’s leftist ideological influences lead him to make the humble Mexico visible, always impregnating some magic and irony on the idiosyncratic symbols he used to capture.


Diane Arbus (United States)



Known in her time as the photographer of the Freaks, otherness was the great artistic anguish in the life of Diane Arbus. After spending several years doing fashion photography, his husband Allan Arbus - with whom she shared a photo studio - left her for another woman several years later. This separation was a breaking point for Diane, who found in the rebel 60s the perfect time to direct her lens to capture new bodies that were totally opposed to traditional beauty. That was how at that time she toured several marginal neighborhoods in New York to photograph dwarfs, deformed people, fat people or giants, a motif that would come to be the most representative in her series of portraits. In 1971, during a severe depression, Arbus would commit suicide at 48 years of age.


Lisette Model (Austria - United States)



This photographer was the great mentor of Diane Arbus, in whose drastic artistic drift she was a major influence. Being a multifaceted student in the field of the arts, it was photography’s powerful relationship with reality that led her to dedicate herself to the art of the still camera. Whether photographing the French aristocracy based in Nice or common people in the motels and taverns of the New York of the 30’s, in every portrait Model captures human people always achieving a memorable singularity.


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