So you want to hone your craft?

By: Sabina Panayotova - Published: • References: eframe
So you want to hone your craft? Here we profile five photographers whose pioneering styles transformed their craft and from whom us ordinary “snappers” can learn a great deal.


1. Robert Capa (1913-1954)

A combat photographer who covered five different wars, including World War II, Capa was frequently quoted as saying:  ”If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” To that end he took photos from mud-filled trenches and even landing craft during the 1944 D-Day landings so as to be near his subjects.

“Authentic”, you see, really isn’t the right word to describe Capa’s photography. His iconic images of soldiers fighting for – and sometimes losing – their lives, and the horror and stench of war, remain unsurpassed.

As for the rest of us, used to capturing rather more mundane and less dangerous events, the moral of the story seems to be – get close to the action and your photos will improve!


2. Terry O’Neill (born 1938)

O’Neill has photographed so many great stars that his “collection” embraces almost all the major luminaries of the golden age of Hollywood. Steve McQueen, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Michael Caine were all firm friends. He also captured Raquel Welch and Catherine Deneuve at their most voluptuous.

But O’Neill memorably captured Lee Marvin (below) at his most recalcitrant in a shot that ranks as my favourite photo not only of Marvin but indeed of any major star.

O’Neill caught Marvin drinking his lunch break in a Mexican cantina in early 1971. Marvin was filming Pocket Money alongside legendary “golden boy” Paul Newman. Marvin, who was not known for polite small talk, apparently did not get on with Newman during filming.

This photo seems to convey some of Marvin’s bad mood. He sits chain-smoking and drinking tequila, a good “meal” that doubtless set him in good stead for the afternoon’s filming. No smile, no friendly gaze but rather a cynical and slightly befuddled gaze into the camera. An instant “laddish” classic!

O’Neill, briefly married to Faye Dunaway, recently had an exhibition of his work shown in his native Ireland.
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3. Annie Leibovitz (born 1949)

Who here hasn’t heard of Annie Liebovitz? Raise your hand! Well, what are you doing here then? Liebovitz has photographed everyone worth knowing, from the Queen to Barack Obama, through to rock legends like Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and Joan Armatrading.

Her most famous shoot, on December 8 1980, was with John Lennon just a few hours before he was tragically murdered. She had initially tried to get a picture of Lennon alone, as requested by Rolling Stone magazine. Lennon, however, insisted that both he and Yoko Ono should adorn the cover. Leibovitz then tried to re-create something like the kissing scene from the Double Fantasy album cover, a picture that she loved. The photos (one of which is pictured below) are indicative of the trust she enjoyed with the couple.

What can you learn from Annie Liebovitz? Everything! In particular, get to know your subject and say something about him/her in your photography. This photo certainly does!


4. Norman Parkinson (1913 – 1990)

Parkinson, the centenary of whose birth is celebrated this year, was one of the 20th century’s best known and most prolific British fashion photographers. Active for over 50 years, he replaced the stiff formality of most portraits of the era with a casual coolness and relaxed feel.

His photographs of celebrities, artists, actors and the British Royal Family are known throughout the world. “My aim” he said, “was to take moving pictures with a still camera”. Parkinson took his models outside the confines of the studio and photographed them in real life situations.

Parkinson himself was also rather eccentric. One of his last appearances was cooking sausages on the Jonathan Ross show.

One of his most famous photographs was that of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Budapest in 1972, the occasion being a party in the then Communist country to mark Taylor’s 40th birthday. Parkinson captured them in fur, on the terrace of their hotel overlooking the Danube.

“I don’t pretend to be an ordinary housewife,” Taylor once said. Somehow I don’t think the housewives of communist Budapest, circa 1972, would have mistaken her for one of their own!

Having said that, the photo we feature below is that of Audrey Hepburn (below) a delightful and elegant style icon of the times.


5. Doris Peter (born 1967)

OK, had enough of celebrity photographers? Wanna see some hard-pressed ordinary folk? Take a look at Swiss photographer Doris Peter’s magnificent archive of black-and-white photos from Sofia, Bulgaria.

Peter first arrived in Sofia at the end of 1990 (just after the fall of communism) during a difficult winter marked by empty shelves and food rationing. She immediately set about photographing ”ordinary” people on the street.

Gypsies appear in many photos – children collecting scrap metal, two young boys sniffing glue – and older people selling cabbage, flowers and popcorn. Then there are the street peddlars – a shoeshine man and someone with a pair of weighing scales.


All our featured photographers succeeded in breaking the mold in very different ways and we hope their work proves to be an inspiration for you. Stats for 5 Pioneering Photographers Who Seized The Moment Trending: Older & Chilly
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