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Iconic Nude Photographers

Photography has had a profound impact on the evolution of the perception of the body for more than a century. It has fully contributed to the exploration of human anatomy and morphology, as well as to the collective erotic imagination. But the nude, an ancient tradition among the consecrated arts, has struggled to gain recognition or even the right to feature as a photographic genre for a very long time, although it is probably as old as its invention.

The nude is a wonderful and creative photographic genre, but it is also very challenging. Nude photographers depict the human body with an emphasis on form, composition, emotional content, and aesthetic qualities. Erotic interest, although often present, is secondary, which distinguishes fine art photography from both glamour photography, which focuses on showing the subject of the photograph in the most attractive way, and pornographic photography.

Nude photography remains a controversial subject in all media, but more so with photography due to its inherent realism. The male nude has been less common than the female, and more rarely exhibited or published.

All About Photo has compiled the most interesting examples of such photography. Below is our list of famous nude photographers who have been able to unveil the raw beauty of our fellow humans. In this list, you’ll find a mixture of famous nude photographers from past and present to get you inspired.

Edward Weston

Young Edward Weston with a camera, c. 1915

Edward Weston (1886 - 1958) evolved a particularly American aesthetic, using a large format camera to capture images of nature and landscapes as well as nudes, establishing photography as a fine arts medium. He has been called ''one of the most innovative and influential American photographers...'' and ''one of the masters of 20th century photography.''
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Robert Mapplethorpe

© Robert Mapplethorpe, self-portrait, 1980

Robert Michael Mapplethorpe (1946 - 1989) was an American photographer, best known for his black-and-white photographs. His work featured an array of subjects, including celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits, and still-life images. His vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.
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Ralph Gibson

© Ralph Gibson

Ralph Gibson is an American art photographer best known for his photographic books. His images often incorporate fragments with erotic and mysterious undertones, building narrative meaning through contextualization and surreal juxtaposition. In order to sensualize the abstract themes that Gibson was seeking, themes like dreams and desires, he used incredibly simplified compositions, constructing almost architectural spaces out of line and form.
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Bill Brandt

© Bill Brandt, Self Portrait, ca. 1966

Bill Brandt (1904 - 1983) was a British photographer and photojournalist. Born in Germany, Brandt moved to England, where he became known for his images of British society for such magazines as Lilliput and Picture Post; later he made distorted nudes, portraits of famous artists and landscapes. Many of his works have important social commentary but also poetic resonance. His landscapes and nudes are dynamic, intense and powerful, often using wide-angle lenses and distortion.
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Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin, 2009

Nancy ''Nan'' Goldin is an American photographer. As a teenager in Boston in the 1960s, then in New York starting in the 1970s, Nan Goldin has taken intensely personal, spontaneous, sexual, and transgressive photographs of her family, friends, and lovers. Goldin used the camera and photography to cherish her relationships with those she photographed. She also found the camera as a useful political tool, to inform the public about important issues silenced in America.
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Alfred Stieglitz

© Gertrude Käsebier, Alfred Stieglitz in 1902

Alfred Stieglitz (1864 - 1946) was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his 50-year career in making photography an accepted art form. Pictorialist photographers like him captured nudes, often of his lover and famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe, with emphasis on artistic aesthetics such as tonality, composition, and the beauty of the subject matter.
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Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton, Portrait from his grave site by his wife

Helmut Newton (1920 - 2004), a German-Jewish/Australian fashion photographer, is best known for his fashion and female nude studies. His work appeared nationally and internationally in such magazines as Elle, Marie Claire, Playboy and French Vogue. During the 60s, Newton's photography style began to emerge as covertly sexual, even hinting occasionally at the fetishistic.
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Sasha Stone

Sasha Stone

Sasha Stone (1895 - 1940) was a Russian photographer, best known for his portraits, nude studies, photographs of Berlin and for his photojournalism. Sasha Stone's nude work appeared in 'Les Femmes', and was published by Editions Arts et Metiers Graphiques, Paris, in 1933. His nudes are usually in poses that are quite modernist in sensibility, and the lighting emphasizes their sculptural shapes and angles.
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Germaine Krull

© Germaine Krull, self-portrait

Germaine Krull (1897 - 1985) was a pioneer in the fields of avant-garde photomontage, the photographic book, and photojournalism, and she embraced both commercial and artistic loyalties. During her Paris years (1926-1928), she often worked for VU magazine, published photobooks, experimented with multiple exposures and collage-like work. She captured the Paris underworld, landscapes, took portraits of André Malraux, Jean Cocteau, and Sergei Eisenstein. Her work was a combination of ''offensive'' nudes, fashion, advertising and portrait photography, social photography, and avant-garde portraits of technology.
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Horst P. Horst

Horst P. Horst signing autographs in 1984

Horst P. Horst (1906 – 1999), was a German-American photographer best known for his photographs of women and fashion, but is also recognized for his photographs of interior architecture, still lifes, especially ones including plants, and environmental portraits. He worked for different clothing lines to help sell their products. One of the great iconic photos of the Twentieth-Century is ''The Mainbocher Corset'' with its erotically charged mystery, captured by Horst in Vogue’s Paris studio in 1939.
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Imogen Cunningham

Imogen Cunningham, self portrait, 1909

Imogen Cunningham (1883 - 1976) was an American photographer known for her botanical photography, nudes, and industrial landscapes. In the early 1910s, her images, where her husband Roi Partridge posed nude as a mystical woodland faun, caused a scandal due to a woman photographing a male nude. One critic wrote that her work was vulgar and charged her with being an immoral woman, but Cunningham stated that, ''It didn't make a single bit of difference in my business. Nobody thought worse of me.''
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Herbert List

© Herbert List, self-portrait, Rome 1955

Herbert List (1903 - 1975) was a German photographer, who worked for magazines, including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Life, and was associated with Magnum Photos. His austere, classically posed black-and-white compositions, particularly his homoerotic male nudes, taken in Italy and Greece being influential in modern photography and contemporary fashion photography.
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Herb Ritts

Herbert ''Herb'' Ritts (August 13, 1952 – December 26, 2002), American fashion photographer

Herb Ritts (1952 - 2002) began his photographic career in the late '70s and gained a reputation as a master of art and commercial photography. In addition to producing portraits and editorial fashion, Ritts also created successful advertising campaigns. In his life and work, Herb Ritts was drawn to clean lines and strong forms. This graphic simplicity allowed his images to be read and felt instantaneously. They often challenged conventional notions of gender or race. His fine art photography has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide, with works residing in many significant public and private collections.
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Lucien Clergue

Lucien Clergue, 2013

Lucien Clergue (1934 - 2014) was a French photographer, perhaps most remembered and respected for his black-and-white studies of light, shadow, and form, featuring sinuous female bodies, dynamic sand dunes, and seascapes extracted from the coast of the Camargue. Clergue’s nudes read like landscapes, seamlessly melding the human figure with topographies from the natural world in such a way that they appear at once amorphous and alloyed.
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Ruth Bernhard

Ruth Bernhard

Ruth Bernhard (1905 - 2006) was a German-born American photographer best known for her amazing nude photographs. Most of Bernhard's work is studio-based, ranging from simple still lifes to complex nudes. She worked almost exclusively in black-and-white, though there are rumors that she had done some color work as well. She also is known for her lesbian themed works, most notably 'Two Forms' (1962). In that work, a black woman and a white woman who were real-life lovers are featured with their nude bodies pressed against one another.
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Jan Saudek

Jan Saudek, 2010

Jan Saudek is an art photographer and painter. His best-known work is notable for its hand-tinted portrayal of painterly dream worlds, often inhabited by nude or semi-nude figures surrounded by bare plaster walls or painted backdrops. In this his photographs suggest the studio and tableaux works of mid-19th century erotic photographers, as well as the works of the 20th-century painter Balthus, and of Bernard Faucon. During the 1990s, his work at times generated censorship attempts in the West because of its provocative sexual content.
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Auguste Belloc

Reclining female nude - Photography, salt print, circa 1853 © Auguste Belloc

Auguste Belloc (1800 - 1867) was a French photographer, known for his erotic works. By 1851, Belloc was making portraits with the daguerreotype and calotype processes. He was one of the founding members of the Société Française de Photographie. In the mid 1850’s, he was inventing, manufacturing and selling photographic supplies and equipment, which he continued until his death in 1867. In 1869, Marconi reproduced and published Belloc’s exquisite nudes, which were deemed pornographic at the time.
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Nobuyoshi Araki

Nobuyoshi Araki

Nobuyoshi Araki is a Japanese photographer and contemporary artist professionally known by the mononym Arākī. Known primarily for photography that blends eroticism and bondage in a fine art context, he has published over 500 books. While sometimes focusing on quotidian subject matter, including flowers or street scenes, it is Araki’s sexual imagery that has elicited controversy and fascination.
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Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman, self-portrait, c. 1977

Francesca Woodman was an American photographer best known for her black and white pictures featuring herself and female models. Many of her photographs show young women who are nude, blurred (due to movement and long exposure times), merging with their surroundings, or whose faces are obscured. Francesca Woodman photographed herself, often nude, in empty interiors. But her pictures are not traditional self-portraits.
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Sally Mann

Sally Mann, 2007

Sally Mann is an American photographer best known for her intimate portraits of her family, her young children and her husband, and for her evocative and resonant landscape work in the American South. Her work has attracted controversy at times, but it has always been influential, and since her the time of her first solo exhibition, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., in 1977, she has attracted a wide audience.
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Man Ray

Man Ray, photographed at the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse exhibition in Paris by Carl Van Vechten on June 16, 1934

Man Ray (1890 - 1976) was an American visual artist who spent most of his career in Paris. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal. He was best known for his pioneering photography, and was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. Man Ray's 'Le Violon d'Ingres' (1924), a famed photograph depicting a nude Kiki de Montparnasse's back overlaid with a violin's f-holes, sold for $12.4 million on May 14, 2022, setting a new world record at the time as the most expensive photograph ever to be sold at auction.
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Mona Kuhn

Mona Kuhn, 2017

Mona Kuhn is a German-Brazilian contemporary photographer best known for her large-scale photographs of the human form and essence. An underlying current in Kuhn's work is her reflection on our longing for spiritual connection and solidarity. Kuhn's work shows the human body in its natural state while simultaneously re-interpreting the nude as a contemporary canon of art. Her work often references classical themes, has been exhibited internationally, and is held in several collections including the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum and the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
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