Photography

The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time  

Ranker Art
302 votes 121 voters 8.9k 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
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
Jan Saudek is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Jan Saudek age 83
Jan Saudek is a Czech art photographer and painter.
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
Diane Arbus is listed (or ranked) 4 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
5
Andres Serrano is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
Ren Hang is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Ren Hang Died at 29 (1987-2017)
7
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
Sally Mann is listed (or ranked) 8 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.
9
Weegee is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
Joel-Peter Witkin is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
Helmut Newton is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Dec. at 84 (1920-2004)
Helmut Newton was a German-Australian photographer.
12
David Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 12 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.
13
Tierney Gearon is listed (or ranked) 13 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
14
Nobuyoshi Araki is listed (or ranked) 14 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.
15
Garry Gross is listed (or ranked) 15 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.
16
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
Annie Leibovitz is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 69
Anna-Lou "Annie" Leibovitz is an American portrait photographer.
18
Oliviero Toscani is listed (or ranked) 18 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
19
Nan Goldin is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 65
Nancy "Nan" Goldin is an American photographer. She lives and works in New York City, Berlin, and Paris.
20
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
Ron Galella is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
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
22
Marwane Pallas is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Marwane Pallas
23
Pierpaolo Ferrari is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
Pierpaolo Ferrari
24
Gottfried Helnwein is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Controversial Photographers Of All Time
age 70
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
25
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