“Behind The Photographs” Shows Us The Artists Behind These Iconic Pictures

Since 2006, Tim Mantoani has been compiling portraits of the photographers behind the most iconic images of the 20th century. The collection now includes over 150 photographers and the images that made them famous. Check out 18 of our favorites below.

1. Steve McCurry


This iconic photo was taken in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1984. After the photo was so well received, Steve looked for this girl. He found her in 2002 after 17 years of searching.


2. Lykl Owerko


Owerko stayed to photograph the events on 9/11 so that future generations would appreciate the scope of what happened. He wanted to portray “how innocence can so easily be snatched away in a razor’s edged moment of time”.


3. Thomas Mangelsen


This photo of a brown bear was taken near Brook’s Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska, in July 1988. He spent a week on a small platform, from before dawn to after sunset, trying to get this shot. He went through 35 rolls of film and had no idea he’d been successful until he developed the film later.

4. David Doubilet


Taken in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, this school of chevron Barracuda circled the diver 3 times before they disappeared into he wider ocean. David focusses on catching the impact of global warming on coral reefs, damaged both from rising sea levels and the changing chemistry of the ocean.


5. Harry Benson


Harry snapped this pic of the Beatles just after their manager, Brian Epstein, had told them that they were number 1 in America.


6. Douglas Kirkland


As a 24-year-old freshman photographer, Douglas Kirkland was a little overwhelmed by his photoshoot with Marilyn. She had three requirements for being photographed in bed: the sheets must be silk, Dom Perignon must be at the ready, and Frank Sinatra must be playing.

7. Nick Ut


Nick Ut was on Highway 1 near the Cambodian border when he took the photograph that would change his life. He was a young Associated Press photographer reporting on the war in his native country. After a napalm bomb was dropped, he snapped this one photo and then went to help the girl. He gave her water, drove her to the hospital and got her admitted using his press pass.


8. Carl Fischer


Fischer took this photo while he was working for Esquire magazine. The picture symbolises Ali’s persecution after refusing to join the US Army in the Vietnam War because of his Muslim faith.


9. Barbara Bordnick


Polaroid commissioned Bordnick to do a calendar in 1977, and she did one focussing on women in jazz, called ‘A Song I Can See’. The photo is of Helen Humes, a jazz vocalist, and appeared on the cover.

10. Elliott Erwitt


Erwitt snapped this photo across the street from his apartment in Central Park in New York, 38 years ago.


11. Herman Leonard


Leonard took this photo in 1948 during an afternoon rehearsal at the Royal Roost. These New York performances allowed Leonard to photograph many of the giants of jazz at the time.


12. Jeff Widener

Chris Widener took this photo of “Tank Man” in Beijing in 1989. The identity of this protester has never been confirmed.

13. Jim Marshall


Jim Marshall was shooting photos of Johnny Cash during a sound check at San Quentin prison in 1969, when he made a simple request. “John, let’s do a shot for the warden.” This photo was the result.


14. Julius Shulman


Julius Schulman was an innovating architecture photographer best known for his photos of the Stahl house. His photos spread Calilfornian Mid-century modern architecture throughout the world.


15. May Pang

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May Pang took this photo of John Lennon with his son Julian while they were relaxing on Long Island, New York in 1974.

16. Karen Kuehn


This photo, Cats Story, was shot for National Geographic. The director wanted a story about Cats, but he did not want it to be typical. Karen was inspired by George Balanchine, who used the idea of cats always landing on their feet to teach his dancers.


17. Mary Ellen Mark


Mark took this photo while doing an Indian Circus Project. Ram Prakash Singh was the ringmaster of ‘The Great Golden Circus’ and his beloved Shyama, the elephant, sadly died from eating poisoned chapatti a few months after the photograph was taken.


18. Neil Leifer


Neil Liefer took this photo of Ali’s reaction after he knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of the World Heavyweight Title fight, in Maine, 1965.