The 100 Most Important People in Photography, 2005

Sometimes it’s what you know, and sometimes it’s who you know. Here are the people you definitely should know.

It was 11 years ago that American Photo first contemplated the audacious idea of naming the top 100 movers and shakers in photography. Richard Avedon topped our list that year because of an ambitious retrospective exhibition and book deal he was undertaking at the time. Four years later, in 1988, our number-one position was more controversial: Diana, the princess of Wales, whose death in 1997 created a furor over the aggressive tactics of the paparazzi.

20050601-01-2Now it is time again to assess the state of the medium and name the people who are shaping the art and business of photography in 2005. As you’ll see on the following pages, our number-one choice this year is neither a photographer nor an icon. But if the name isn’t widely known among the general public, it has certainly become so among professionals who have witnessed first-hand how this person’s (actually a pair of people) vision has changed photography profoundly.

Stepping back to see where photography is heading—and who is taking it there—is really the point of the issue. And our list makes a few trends very clear … but we’ll get to that in a moment.

20050601-01-1First, it’s important that everyone understand how we arrived at our list and the criteria we used to make our decisions. As in the past, we started by asking a confidential group of 25 councilors in various areas of the photo industry to give us their ideas. The editors of AP then painstakingly constructed the list—”pain” being the operative word, since the process engendered fierce debate.

The result is, of course, a subjective analysis of the industry and the art, but one based on a wide and varied base of opinion. The people on our list represent not a historic view of photography’s greatest achievements but an up-to-the-minute view of photography now.

To make our job manageable, we have again limited our choices to people who either live primarily in this country or whose work in this country has made a significant contribution to photography.

20050601-01-3As to what our list reveals: There is no doubt that photography is thriving as both art and industry. As pictures fill our world, demand for imagery has undergone a big-bang expansion, and the means of distribution have been revolutionized. The big photo agencies that have consolidated the markets for stock, syndication, and editorial imagery have become power centers that are able to leverage their influence over media outlets and artists’ reps. The influence of art-book publishers has grown as more and more photo titles are produced each year; paparazzi and red-carpet photography feed pop culture’s ever-more-voracious appetite for celebrity stimulation; and the art market has survived the economic downturn of the early ‘00s handily, though many of the big-selling artists right now are far from new names.

Just as important, the entire medium—from fine art to commercial work and photojournalism—is being redefined by digital technology and the entrepreneurs who are envisioning the future. Sometimes it’s what you know, and sometimes it’s who you know. Herewith, we introduce you to the people you definitely should know.

Source: American PHOTO