Art The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time  

Ranker Art
148 votes 33 voters 2k views 33 items

List Rules Vote up the photographers who have created the most controversy with their body of work.

This is a list of the most controversial photographers. Throughout history art and fashion photographers have pushed against the bounds of convention, the law, and good taste.

The scope of controversy in photography is broad, including fashion photographers known to shoot provocative campaigns, like Steven Klein or David LaChapelle; to photographers who use corpses as their models, like Joel-Peter Witkin. Profane themes are all possible subjects for a controversial photographer.

All of these photographers have created notable bodies of work and though some of their scandalous photos might even seem tame in the modern day, it's difficult to determine who has truly been the most controversial photographer of all time. Even if some of the names are new to you, their fashion campaigns and controversial art are familiar. It’s up to you to help determine which photographers have made, or are still making, the most controversial photographs.

list ordered by

1
11 2
Robert Mapplethorpe is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 43 (1946-1989) Robert Mapplethorpe was an American photographer, known for his sometimes controversial large-scale, highly stylized black and white photography. His work featured an array of subjects, ...more

2
6 1
Andres Serrano is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Andres Serrano age 67 Andres Serrano is an American photographer and artist who has become famous through his photos of corpses and his use of feces and bodily fluids in his work, notably his controversial work ...more

3
7 2
Annie Leibovitz is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 68 Anna-Lou "Annie" Leibovitz is an American portrait photographer.

4
6 3
Terry Richardson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 52 Terrence "Terry" Richardson is an American fashion and portrait photographer who has shot advertising campaigns for Marc Jacobs, Aldo, Supreme, Sisley, Tom Ford, and Yves Saint Laurent ...more

5
5 2
Jill Greenberg is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Jill Greenberg age 50 Jill Greenberg is an American photographer and artist. She is known for her portraits and fine art work that often features anthropomorphized animals that have been digitally manipulated with ...more

6
5 3
Jan Saudek is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Jan Saudek age 82 Jan Saudek is a Czech art photographer and painter.

7
4 2
Tierney Gearon is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Tierney Gearon age 54 Tierney Gearon is an American photographer who came to prominence in Britain after a media controversy over her work at the Saatchi Gallery. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia. She had no formal ...more

8
3 2
Diane Arbus is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 48 (1923-1971) Diane Arbus was an American photographer and writer noted for photographs of "deviant and marginal people or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal". Arbus believed a camera ...more

9
3 2
Oliviero Toscani is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 76 Oliviero Toscani is an Italian photographer, best-known worldwide for designing controversial advertising campaigns for Italian brand Benetton, from 1982 to 2000. Toscani took up photography ...more

10
2 1
Weegee is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 69 (1899-1968) Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig, a photographer and photojournalist, known for his stark black and white street photography. Weegee worked in Manhattan, New York City's Lower East Side ...more

11
2 1
Ron Galella is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Ron Galella age 87 Ronald Edward Galella is an American photographer, known as a pioneer paparazzo. Dubbed "Paparazzo Extraordinaire" by Newsweek and "the Godfather of the U.S. paparazzi ...more

12
2 1
Steven Klein is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Steven Klein age 57 Steven Klein is a photographer and film director.

13
2 2
David Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 84 David Hamilton is a British photographer and film director best known for his nude images of young women.

14
2 2
Helmut Newton is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 84 (1920-2004) Helmut Newton was a German-Australian photographer. He was a "prolific, widely imitated fashion photographer whose provocative, erotically charged black-and-white photos were a mainstay of ...more

15
2 2
Sally Mann is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 66 Sally Mann is an American photographer, best known for her large black-and-white photographs—at first of her young children, then later of landscapes suggesting decay and death.

16
2 2
Ren Hang is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Ren Hang Died at 29 (1987-2017)

17
2 2
Bill Henson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 63 Bill Henson is an Australian contemporary art photographer.

18
3 4
Nobuyoshi Araki is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 77 Nobuyoshi Araki is a Japanese photographer and contemporary artist. He is also known by the nickname Arākī.

19
2 3
Pierpaolo Ferrari is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Pierpaolo Ferrari

20
1 2
Joel-Peter Witkin is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 78 Joel-Peter Witkin is an American photographer who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work often deals with such themes as death, corpses, and various outsiders such as dwarves, transsexuals, ...more

21
1 2
Michael Stokes is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Michael Stokes age 55

22
1 2
Marwane Pallas is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Marwane Pallas

23
1 2
Chris von Wangenheim is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 39 (1942-1981) Christoph "Chris" von Wangenheim was a German fashion photographer of the late 1960s through the early 1980s.

24
1 2
Garry Gross is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
bigcraig added Dec. at 73 (1937-2010)

Nude photos of 10 year old Brooke Shields

Garry Gross is an actor.

25
1 2
David LaChapelle is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 55 David LaChapelle is an American commercial photographer, fine-art photographer, music video director, film director, and artist. He is best known for his photography, which often references art ...more

26
1 2
Nan Goldin is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 64 Nancy "Nan" Goldin is an American photographer. She lives and works in New York City, Berlin, and Paris.

27
1 2
Gottfried Helnwein is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 69 Gottfried Helnwein is an Austrian born Austrian-Irish fine artist, painter, photographer, installation and performance artist. Helnwein studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna. He was ...more

28
1 2
Spencer Tunick is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 51 Spencer Tunick is an American photographer best known for organizing large-scale nude shoots. Since 1994 he has photographed over 75 human installations around the world.

29
0 2
Guy Bourdin is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 63 (1928-1991) Guy Bourdin, born Guy Louis Banarès, was a French fashion photographer known for his provocative fashion images. He was one of the best known photographers of fashion and advertising of ...more

30
0 2
Steven Meisel is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Steven Meisel age 64 Steven Meisel is an American fashion photographer, who obtained popularity and critical acclaim with his work in US and Italian Vogue and his photographs of friend Madonna in her 1992 book Sex. ...more

31
0 2
Irina Ionesco is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Irina Ionesco age 82 Irina Ionesco is a French photographer born in Paris, France. She was the daughter of Romanian immigrants. She spent her childhood years in Constanţa, Romania before she moved to Paris. She ...more

32
0 2
Daido Moriyama is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 79 Daidō Moriyama is a Japanese photographer noted for his images depicting the breakdown of traditional values in post-war Japan. Moriyama received the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement from ...more

33
0 3
Lilith Love is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Lilith Love age 54