Art The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time  

Ranker Art
176 votes 48 voters 3.1k 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
15 3
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
8 3
Annie Leibovitz is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 69 Anna-Lou "Annie" Leibovitz is an American portrait photographer.

3
7 3
Terry Richardson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 53 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

4
6 2
Andres Serrano is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Andres Serrano age 68 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

5
6 3
Jan Saudek is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Jan Saudek age 83 Jan Saudek is a Czech art photographer and painter.

6
6 3
Tierney Gearon is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Tierney Gearon age 55 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

7
6 4
Jill Greenberg is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Jill Greenberg age 51 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

8
4 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
4 3
Oliviero Toscani is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 77 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
3 2
Helmut Newton is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 84 (1920-2004) Helmut Newton was a German-Australian photographer.

11
3 2
David Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 85 David Hamilton is a British photographer and film director best known for his nude images of young women.

12
3 2
Joel-Peter Witkin is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 79 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

13
3 2
Sally Mann is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 67 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.

14
2 1
Ron Galella is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Ron Galella age 88 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

15
2 1
Weegee is listed (or ranked) 15 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

16
2 1
Steven Klein is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 58 Steven Klein is a photographer and film director.

17
4 4
Nobuyoshi Araki is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 78 Nobuyoshi Araki is a Japanese photographer and contemporary artist. He is also known by the nickname Arākī.

18
2 2
Ren Hang is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Ren Hang Died at 29 (1987-2017)

19
2 2
Garry Gross is listed (or ranked) 19 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.

20
2 2
Bill Henson is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 64 Bill Henson is an Australian contemporary art photographer.

21
2 3
Pierpaolo Ferrari is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Pierpaolo Ferrari

22
1 2
Michael Stokes is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Michael Stokes age 55

23
1 2
Marwane Pallas is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Marwane Pallas

24
1 2
Chris von Wangenheim is listed (or ranked) 24 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.

25
1 2
Daido Moriyama is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 80 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