The last decade has been a time of great activity in the field of contemporary photography. Now fully accepted as a fine art medium, it has become one of the most exciting and fastest changing of the visual art forms. With new digital technologies, the idea of an image has been redefined and the aesthetic combinations have become nearly limitless. However, as quickly as we have seen such expansive modifications in the process of photography, we have also seen a return, to the natural, more simplistic style of capturing an image. It is this method, which will perhaps have the most longevity, and will be the most influential on the medium in years to come.
The first example of a photographer who has received worldwide recognition in both the advertising industry and art scene in the last decade by establishing a distinctly raw and simplistic visual aesthetic; Juergen Teller. His work is known for very raw and direct lighting, and capturing his subjects in a particularly unguarded manner. Teller has pioneered not only a visual, but also a conceptual idea of fashion photography.
With a very similar thumbprint, Terry Richardson has himself become a celebrity, as he often appears in the images alongside his celebrity subjects. Whether in the frame or not, Richardson’s strong personality is evident in all of his photographs. Along with Teller, He has redefined the role that production value plays in large commercial advertising jobs. Many photographers have adopted their “on-camera-flash” or “snapshot” aesthetic, and this can be seen in many of the newer fashion magazines and advertisements targeted to the younger generation.
Another style in which was, is, and always will be one of the simplest and most powerful methods to capturing an image (especially portraiture) is the perfection of utilizing natural light. An artist that has done this influentially over the last decade is Alec Soth. Soth uses a large format film camera reminiscent of the great portrait photographers of the last century. However, He has a way of observing and documenting people that provides a distinctly contemporary view.
Jason Nocito contributes to this same simple, raw, and personal aesthetic. He is a perfect ambassador to his generation’s view of not only celebrities, but also the seemingly normal atmospheres of our daily culture. In the age where photographers manipulate their images in any number of digital ways, Nocito allows only the affect of imperfections that can occur naturally to compliment his portraiture.
Ryan McGinley has spend the last ten years perfecting and defining a similar style in color portraiture. Like the aforementioned photographers, McGinley has forgone the large expansive production sets and glossy post-production techniques for an extremely raw and spontaneous style of taking portraits. His subjects are often nude, but he has the ability to portray them in a very natural and lighthearted way.
A photographer who adds a more European style and a stricter method of composer is Sacha Maric. His images marry contrived elements of posture and props with a natural and identifiable illumination on his subjects. His use of color is powerful.
In regards to color, the work of emerging photographer Lina Scheynius is one to admire. She further confirms this trend of the simpler and the more natural images have a strong future in the realm of contemporary photography. Both editorial and fashion projects are now more and more often being shot in her extraordinary intimate and casual style.
Focusing on black and white photography, but extremely influential well before the beginning of the 21st century is the photographic work of Mary Ellen Mark. Mark demonstrates some of the same photographic elements. Often using available light and undisturbed locations, Mark can capture the unfashionable and social outsiders in the same stoic method that she photographs notable personalities.
Documenting the underground of humanity in a very raw and exciting way was artist Dash Snow. As other artists who have died young, his influence on art (and photography in particular) will only increase after his death in July of 2009. It is highly possible that his brand of visual communication will become more popular in mainstream outlets in the coming years.
And Lastly, A photographer whose career reaches well into last century, but whose work has become increasing more popular and influential in the last decade. That photographer is William Eggleston. At the forefront of color photography, and its acceptance as an art form, Eggleston is perhaps the godfather of this aesthetic. He has looked deeper into his natural surroundings and brought out the true beauty of color, geometry, and the feeling of everyday life, captured in an image.
These ten photographers have all contributed infinitely to the last decade of contemporary photography. Although their images display various subject matter, are intended for different audiences, and convey many individual meanings to the photographic world, These photographers utilize a very similar aesthetic. One in which can give us an indication of the next ten years of photographic evolution.