“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” – Steve McCurry
Intrepid and visionary, photographers have long ventured forth to document their journeys and capture the essence of the places they explore. In celebration of our 2023 Travel Photography Award, (open for entries until the end of August) we’ve curated a list of 20 photographers, past and present, whose inspiring images embody the unique allure of travel.
1. Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry, the esteemed judge of our current Travel Award, is a globally-renowned figure in the world of photography. His remarkable oeuvre encompasses some of the most iconic images of our time and showcases the awe-inspiring beauty and cultural diversity of our planet.
Born in Philadelphia in 1950, McCurry studied cinematography at Pennsylvania State University, after which he worked as a staff photographer for the local newspaper Today’s Post. However, driven by his passion for travel and photography, he embarked on a journey to India, a country that would become synonymous with his name due to the stunning images he captured throughout his career. It was this inaugural trip that sparked the epiphanic realization, “if you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view”, setting the foundation for a remarkable career and some truly captivating images encompassing every corner of the globe.
2. Inge Morath
One of the most influential photographers in the history of the medium, Inge Morath travelled extensively throughout her career, forming close relationships with the places she visited through her absolute immersion in the local culture. The remarkable images she captured, display her wonderful artistry and serve as fascinating mementos of their time, whilst demonstrating the profound potential of color photography long before it gained widespread acceptance.
3. Michael Yamashita
Few photographers convey the sheer joy of travel like Michael Yamashita. Over the past three decades, he has embarked on a journey around the world, capturing breathtaking images of its landscapes and people.
Though, throughout his career, Yamashita has photographed on six different continents, it is his work in Asia that has become particularly renowned. With an Asian Studies major from Wesleyan University and Japanese heritage, Yamashita has become an expert in the region and has photographed extensively in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and India, capturing images that articulately convey the cultural diversity and stunning beauty of this fascinating continent.
4. Denis Dailleux
Though he has photographed various locations, Denis Dailleux is inseparably linked to Egypt, a country with which he has had a long and complex love affair, that has engendered some truly stunning imagery. His images convey a deep understanding of the Egyptian people and their culture, capturing their humanity and resilience.
He first visited the country in 1992, to join his Egyptian lover whom he had met in Paris a year earlier, and immediately fell in love with the country, captivated by its beguiling beauty and the warmth and generosity of its people.
He spent the next three decades visiting the country (before eventually, living there for several years), capturing its unique essence with love, tenderness, profound respect, and a masterful eye for form, light, and color.
5. Martine Franck
One of the finest practitioners of her time, and, like her husband Henri Cartier-Bresson, a major proponent of the humanist style, Martine Franck spent much of her life traversing the globe, capturing utterly compelling depictions of everyday life with remarkable grace and artistry. Her subjects and locations were as diverse as Tibetan temples, and industrial Northern English towns, whilst she also photographed her homeland extensively, notably in 1976, when she and four female compatriots, were commissioned by La Fondation Nationale de la Photographie to document their countrymen and women on vacation, during which she captured her now iconic photograph ‘Swimming Pool Designed by Alain Capeilleres, La Brusc’.
6. Alex Webb
“Most of my projects seem to start as exploratory journeys with no visible end in sight.” — Alex Webb
Renowned photojournalist, and judge of our 2020 Street Photography Award (alongside his wife and fellow photographer Rebecca Norris-Webb) Alex Webb is a master of capturing the decisive moment, rendering images filled with energy and movement that communicate brilliantly the atmosphere of the scene.
While he has photographed extensively in his homeland, Webb is best known for his vibrant and dynamic work in Latin America and the Caribbean. His images capture the region’s unique atmosphere, rich colors, and intricate details, offering a captivating glimpse into this part of the world.
7. Maggie Steber
One of the finest photographers of her generation, Maggie Steber has dedicated her life to documenting some of the most important stories of our time, a mission that has taken her to some 70 countries, and encompassed everything from the African slave trade to natural disasters. Forthright and rooted in compassion, her images, which have graced the pages of many of the world’s most important publications including, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, and The Guardian, cut to the heart of the human condition, leaving a lasting impact on viewers worldwide.
8. Frédéric Lagrange
Frédéric Lagrange is a French-born photographer whose breathtaking imagery showcases the dramatic beauty and cultural diversity of our world. Over the last decade and a half, he has traveled extensively, visiting approximately 100 countries across almost every continent, focusing particularly on secluded shores and remote areas, such as the wild and rugged Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan. His stunning images, which have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and The New Yorker (among others) evoke a sense of intrepidity and solidify his position as one of today’s most talented travel photographers.
9. Sebastião Salgado
One of the medium’s most masterful living practitioners, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado is renowned for his powerful monochromatic images that tell the human stories behind some of the most important issues of our age.
During the course of his near-five decade-long career, he has traversed the globe, capturing extraordinary images, though it is perhaps his depictions of his homeland for which he is best known. In 1986, he travelled to the notorious Serra Pelada gold mine, to photograph some of the 50,000 workers who worked in terrible conditions. His most recent project, the landmark, Amazonia a series of stunning images of the landscapes and people of the world’s largest rainforest captured during a series of trips over the course of six years, is one of his most impressive, communicating the dramatic beauty, incredible biodiversity, and rich cultural heterogeneity of what the photographer calls “paradise on earth”, and thus highlighting the importance of its conservation at what is a crucial tipping point in the fight against climate change.
10. Pia Riverola
One of the best-known travel photographs of recent years, Pia Riverola, is renowned for her dreamy, pastel-hued renderings, which flawlessly capture the very essence of their subject matter.
Whether it’s vibrant flower markets in Mexico City, neon-lit and rain-drenched streets in Tokyo, or the lush landscapes of South American jungles, Riverola‘s photographs exude a nostalgic and dream-like quality, displaying her masterful understanding of light and inducing a powerful sense of wanderlust.
11. Bruno Barbey
One of the finest photographers of our time, Moroccan-born, French photographer Bruno Barbey, has spent the last five decades travelling the world capturing powerful images that display his unique artistic voice and intrepidity. Over the years he has photographed in Brazil, China, India, his homeland France, and Morrocco, his birthplace, returning on numerous occasions to capture stunning, color-rich images that convey the unique essence of the country.
12. Jimmy Nelson
Judge of our recent Portrait Award, Jimmy Nelson, has dedicated the last ten years to documenting indigenous cultures around the world, which face increasing threats to their traditions and ways of life.
Nelson‘s adventurous spirit was ignited during his childhood through his father’s work as an exploratory geologist. His first major project involved an epic journey on foot across Tibet in 1987, while seven years later, he documented the newly-opened People’s Republic of China in his acclaimed project “Literary Portraits of China,” which was exhibited in Tiananmen Square before touring globally.
However, it was his subsequent travels around the world to photograph remote cultures using a traditional 50-year-old plate camera, that laid the foundation for the project for which he is best known. “Before They Pass Away”, comprises stunning portraits of 35 different indigenous communities across the globe, capturing their unique traditions and practices in the face of globalization and industrialization.
13. Jim Richardson
Though born in the US, Richardson is immensely proud of his Celtic roots and has spent much of his career focusing on Ireland and Scotland. The latter has been a particularly prominent subject, his fascination with the wild landscapes of the Scottish highlands and the remote islands off its western coastline, engendering a wealth of captivating landscape images that articulate its unique, rugged beauty.
14. Matthieu Paley
French-born Matthieu Paley is one of the finest contemporary travel photographers, whose practice focuses on remote areas, and those communities that call them home.
Working on assignments for National Geographic and other leading publications, he has captured profoundly fascinating photo essays on hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Greenland’s Inuit and Afghanistan’s Kyrgyz nomads (which he did over the course of a decade), leading to a number of notable awards, including a 2017 World Press Photo award for his portrayal of a Uighur woman in western China.
15. Brooke Holm
The 2nd Prize Winner of our 2018 Color Award for her breathtaking depiction of an Icelandic landscape, Australian-American artist Brooke Holm is one of the most exciting emerging proponents of travel photography. Inspired by satellite imagery and therefore, captured almost invariably from above, her depictions of some of the world’s most beautiful natural scenery are akin to paintings. Rich in color, texture and form, they offer a divergence from conventional viewpoints, showing the natural world at scale, in an attempt to subvert traditional anthropocentric narratives and advocate for coexistence with our environment and its inhabitants.
16. Galen Rowell
Equal parts adventurer and photographer, Galen Rowell spent the majority of his extraordinary life traversing some of the world’s most lofty areas, and capturing stunning landscape images that convey the beauty of the subject.
Throughout his career, Rowell undertook assignments for prestigious publications like LIFE and National Geographic, fearlessly venturing into remote and unforgiving locations, capturing them with unmatched artistry that still resonates today. His work not only showcased the natural wonders of these landscapes but also left a profound impact on the field of photography, inspiring generations of landscape photographers and ensuring his legacy lives on through his work.
17. Ami Vitale
Considered one of the most important conservation photographers of her generation, Ami Vitale has spent her career travelling the globe, traversing more than 100 countries and capturing stunning images that illuminates the often-overlooked heroes and communities whose efforts to protect wildlife and the natural world are truly inspiring. A Nikon Ambassador and regular contributor to National Geographic, Vitale has received numerous awards and commendations over the years, among them a Lucie Humanitarian Award and numerous World Press Photo prizes, which stand as a testament to her dedication and talent in her field.
18. Jody MacDonald
Few can rival Jody MacDonald when it comes to intrepidity. The award-winning adventurer and photographer has visited over 100 countries and spent a decade travelling the globe on a 60-foot catamaran, on an expedition to uncover the most remote and untamed corners of the planet. Working on assignment for National Geographic and other leading publications, or commercial projects for the likes of Patagonia and Red Bull, MacDonald has photographed some of the harshest and most difficult-to-reach corners of the earth – from the Sahara to the Himalayas – capturing stunning images that communicate the wild beauty of our world.
19. Evelyn Hofer
Few, if any photographers in history captured the essence of cites in the manner of Evelyn Hofer, the enigmatic German-born photographer who, throughout her impressive career, travelled the world photographing its landscapes and people with rarely-matched grace and artistry.
Whether it was Dublin, Paris, Florence, or the cities of her adopted homeland, the United States, Hofer’s photographs capture the essence of the subject. Underpinned by a masterful understanding of form, light, and color, today they stand as timeless testaments to her artistic vision and her ability to reveal the profound beauty that exists within the tapestry of our world.
20. René Burri
One of the most important photographers of the 20th century, René Burri was a true master of his craft, who spent his remarkable life traversing the globe capturing intensely arresting images that continue to delight and inspire to this day.
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