Top 16 Famous Street Photographers

Jeff Picoult

By Jeff Picoult

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Street photography is unlike anything else; it’s raw and authentic.

Photographers capture real-life moments and people in their most natural settings, using sidewalks and busy streets as their creative canvas. While some editing might occur afterward to improve lighting or composition, the photos mostly remain candid and unfiltered!

Street photography of Valencia in Spain

Many iconic street photographers have truly embraced the essence of this art form and elevated it to extraordinary heights. Let’s walk through some of the best names in the field!

Top 16 Famous Street Photographers In History

1. Alex Webb

Alex Webb - Mexican children playing in a courtyard

A well-known photojournalist from California, Webb is recognized as among the best contemporary figures in this genre of photography. 

Webb has been widely celebrated for his captivating portrayals of everyday life around the globe. His striking compositions, particularly those taken in the Caribbean and Latin America, all left a mark with their intricate details, dynamic energy, and vivid colors that seem to bask in the sunlight. 

These works not only showcase his keen eye for composition and lighting but also highlight how street photography, in general, has been capable of capturing the spirit of any city for decades.

2. Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson stands out as one of the central figures in street photography and photography in general. As the founder of the reputed Magnum Agency, he earned the title “The Father of Photojournalism” and is widely regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century photographers. 

Born on 22 August 1908 in France, the man developed a strong passion for art very early in life, influenced by his mother’s introduction to poetry, classical concerts, and frequent visits to Parisian exhibitions. 

Cartier-Bression soon started his photography career in 1929 despite his initial pursuit of painting. Two years later, he brought home his very first Leica, perfectly suited for the vibrant, dynamic street photography style that would later become his most memorable trademark. 

Grounded in the concept of “the decisive moments,” his portfolio helped shape the contemporary photography landscape and introduced some of the best street photography ever captured in history. 

3. Saul Leiter

Considered one of the most influential photographers post-war, Leiter was a pioneer of color photography. He’s best remembered for his stunning, almost painting-like pictures taken on the bustling streets of Manhattan from the 50s to the 70s.

Most critics agreed Leiter’s work stood out for its abstract approach. He often captured everyday scenes through rain-streaked windows and misty reflections, and he loved playing with shadows and angles. The man reportedly used his telephoto lens (instead of a regular wide-angle one) for these photos.

Despite his undeniable artistry, Leiter’s recognition came later in life. It wasn’t until the highly praised documentary series Early Color, released in 2006, that his work finally gained widespread acclaim. 

He passed away shortly after the documentary’s release. Still, his legacy lives on through various photo books and exhibitions like ‘The Unseen Saul Leiter,’ further solidifying his status as a mesmerizing, influential figure in street photography history.

4. Jill Freedman

Freedman, a highly-acclaimed American street photographer, devoted her life to portraying genuine stories through a graceful, honest lens. She was drawn to those on the fringes of society, immersing in their everyday struggles and documenting each moment with great compassion.

Her photographs are powerful and brutally honest yet just as tender, echoing a deep humanism quite reminiscent of the earlier pioneers of her field. This message is especially evident in her acclaimed series ‘Street Cops,’ which paints a beautiful picture of human tales behind New York’s troubled periods. 

5. Jamel Shabazz

A Brooklyn native, Shabazz has spent the last 40 years capturing the sense of human life from his hometown. His love for photography started during his teenage years, roused by his father’s burning passion for the same craft. 

After a short military stint, Shabazz returned to troubled New York in the 1980s. The city, despite its economic challenges and rising crime rate, was witnessing the historic emergence of vibrant hip-hop culture. 

Driven to celebrate and uplift the youngsters of his community, Shabazz took his camera to the parks, subways, and public squares of Brooklyn, capturing iconic images of the city’s spirit with honesty and deep respect.

6. Bruce Gilden

Bruce Gilden’s career is defined by his candid and robust depictions of street life. His close-up prints, unfiltered in grit and humor, are usually taken just inches away from his models/subjects and enhanced with daytime flash for added intensity.

Gilden decided to expand his artistic horizon after gaining acclaim for his portrayals of New York City and Mardi Gras (New Orleans).

He traveled to many places, especially Haiti, which he returned to numerous times over two decades after his first visit in 1984. This memorable experience led to the publication of his critically acclaimed photo book, “Haiti,” in 1996.

7. Bruce Davidson

This famous street photographer has spent nearly six decades capturing the nuances of daily lives, both in his own homeland and abroad.

A close mentee and confidant of Henri Cartier-Bresson (who invited him to work at Magnum Agency around 1958), Davidson has assembled an impressive portfolio covering a very wide range of subjects. 

Though his work tends to lean towards photojournalism or documentary, it also offers lots of street photography. 

His black-and-white series and more contemporary color depictions portray life in Chicago, New York City, and distant locales. They underscore the era’s spirit while also attesting to the incredible talents of one of history’s most esteemed street photographers we have ever known.

8. Helen Levitt

The twentieth century saw the flourishing of numerous street photographers, including Helen Levitt, an early pursuer of color photography. She took pictures of every theater of life in New York with an excellent balance of rawness and creativity.

Levitt partnered with a commercial photographer for a short while. However, her true love for photography was only awakened from an inspiring encounter with Henri Cartier-Bresson around the 1930s. This passion was further fueled as she had the chance to visit a large exhibition showcasing the photos he had taken alongside those of Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Walker Evans. 

With her Leica camera, she walked around Manhattan’s neighborhoods, capturing life on the sidewalks and stoops in her unique visual language. Most of her work is partly influenced by her keen interests in avant-garde art, film, politics, contemporary dance, and surrealist movements. 

9. Alfred Eisenstaedt

A notable German-born photographer, Eisenstaedt became renowned for his monochrome photographs of politicians, celebrities, and stunning street scenes. He was also part of the European wave that pioneered 35-millimeter cameras in photojournalism to allow for closer, more candid shots.

Eisenstaedt had a keen eye for small, telling details that revealed the larger picture. His style was straightforward and natural; he wanted to “let the subject matter tell the story themselves.”

With his talent for capturing spontaneous, candid moments, Eisenstaedt was also many editors’ top pick. 

He was one of the original four staff members working for Life magazine and earned countless accolades for his remarkable images. Throughout his photojournalism career, he contributed 90 cover photographs and completed about 2,500 photo essays for this magazine.

10. Alfred Stieglitz

Stieglitz played a pivotal role in turning photography into a respected form of American modern art and made significant contributions to the advancement of modernism in the 20th century.

As the founder of Photo-Secession in 1902 (a group of Pictorialist photographers), Stieglitz actively promoted the practice and discourse of photography, forging important connections between European and American artistic movements.

The man was feverishly committed to his mission, producing thousands of prints in his entire life. His photos covered a wide array of themes that encapsulated the rapid transformation of American society.

11. Berenice Abbott

A trailblazing documentary photographer, Abbott is recognized as among the most determined, independent, and respected 20th-century photographers. 

People remember Abbott for striking monochrome photographs of New York City and her preservation of Eugène Atget’s works. She developed a special lighting process called Projection Photography and patented various other photographic gadgets and equipment.

She was also a fervent advocate of modernism and strongly opposed pictorialism, which used to be the dominant painterly style in 20th-century photography. For Abbott, a great photo must reflect photography’s unique qualities, not mimic painting. 

12. Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham

Cunningham was a famous fashion and street photographer credited by some as the “ancestor” of street photography. The man shared his pictures in the New York Times’s fashion column “On the Streets.” 

His photography documented shifts in trends and styles and captured everyday life in both Paris and New York City. Each work demonstrated how street style evolves beyond fashion to center on everyday people and their evolving culture.

Nevertheless, many of his photos never got published. He explained once that since he “stole people’s shadows,” he would feel less guilty when these pictures were not sold elsewhere. 

13. Brassaï

Brassaï (real name Gyula Halász) was a French-Hungarian artist who gained international recognition in 20th-century France as a photographer, medalist, filmmaker, writer, and sculptor. 

Part of the wave of Hungarian artists who thrived in Paris between WWI and II, he soon became famous for his unusual, unique portrayal of both avant-garde and commercial art.

The man was among the first to explore nighttime cityscapes, perhaps because his equipment and materials performed much better at night than during daytime. He spent hours wandering the mysterious streets of the city until he knew them inside out. 

Though he liked to capture grittier sides of urban life in 1920s Paris, Brassaï also documented the city’s high society on occasions, including opera, ballet, and intellectuals — many of whom were his contemporaries and trusted friends.

14. Fred Herzog

Critics consider Herzog the pioneer figure in Vancouver’s photography scene. He’s famous for his unconventional color photography technique from the 1950s to 1960s, back when global art photography still relied heavily on monochrome imagery.

Herzog dedicated most of his artistic career to capturing Vancouver’s life and observing the complexities of the urban landscape.

His photographs reflect the city’s diversity, spirit, and sometimes unsavory aspects, all portrayed with affection, curiosity, and casual frankness. Through Herzog’s lens, time seemed to stand still, preserving small but pivotal moments that still resonate with life. 

15. Garry Winogrand

As an American photographer, Winogrand captured the heart of American culture with all its highs and lows, excitement and heartbreaks, banality and trauma. 

Nevertheless, the man hated it when people called him a “street photographer.” Winogrand just saw himself as a photographer and nothing more, nothing less. 

His lively interactions with the subjects were among his most recognizable trademarks, as he often smiled or nodded at them when capturing their images. Making these personal connections seemed more important to him than the act of taking photographs itself!

During the shoot, Winogrand was quick yet precise, adjusting the camera with impressive accuracy before pressing his shutter release.

Interestingly, he rarely developed his films right after the shoot. Instead, he intentionally waited 1-2 years so he would forget the specifics of each photograph, which allowed him to approach them with fresh eyes later on.

16. Vivian Maier

Unlike other photographers, Maier’s remarkable work remained unknown until after death. 

Despite working as a nursemaid for around 40 years, Maier had a profound passion for photography. With her keen eye for the small details of everyday life, she eagerly captured fleeting moments on the streets from the 1950s to the 1990s through her camera lens.

She photographed both stationary subjects and passersby who caught her eye. And although she was a bit conservative in her approach (often taking only one shot for each scene), Maier sometimes explored further and took up to eight shots if she found a scene particularly captivating.

Do Street Photographers Ask For Permission?

In most countries, photographing ordinary people in public spaces is legal since privacy is not usually expected on a public street. However, if the photographer wants a posed shot or needs the subject’s permission to publish the photo commercially, asking is necessary.


A photograph can speak volumes about an era or a city’s cultural landscape, and these famous photographers have beautifully embraced this art form with their remarkable bodies of work.

Though some of them have since passed away, their influence on later generations of photographers continues to endure to this day.

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Jeff Picoult

Jeff Picoult


Jeff Picoult is a seasoned photographer, who blends artistry and innovation. With a humble approach, he captures moments resonating with depth and emotion, from nature's beauty to the energy of sports.

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