20 Most Influential Asian Photographers

IPA Art & Visual, Craft & Tools, Photography, Street Photography 271 Comments

An updated list of some of the most influential photographers in Asia that we published last year. The 20 names here-in are contributed by the IPA community via an informal poll and post, and serve as a reference to prominent names in Asian photography. By no means is this list complete and exhaustive as it currently is. We hope to add more names as we progress – as a celebration of photography in our part of the great big world.

Which other Asian photographers do you think has been influential, perhaps even in your country or local community? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

1. Daido Moriyama, Japan

Probably the most referenced name from Asia when it comes to contemporary street photography all over the world.

2. Nobuyoshi Araki, Japan

Master of Eroticism and considered one of the most prolific artists alive or dead in Japan.

3. Raghu Rai, India

Protégé of Henri Cartier-Bresson and one of the very few Asian names on the Magnum Photo Agency roster. Rai has documented the changing socialscape and history of India for over 4 decades, from the Sadhus of Kumbh Mela to Mrs Gandhi and Mother Teresa to the victims of Bhopal. Read our exclusive 3 PART interview with Raghu Rai here: Invisible Interview: Raghu Rai

4. Chien-Chi Chang, Taiwan

Another of the very few Asian names on the Magnum Photo Agency roster, best known for The Chain, his portrait work of inmates at the Long Fa Tang in Taiwan.

5. Eikoh Hosoe, Japan

Best known for his psychologically charged images exploring death, erotic obsession, and irrationality during of post-World War II Japan. During his early days in photography, Daido Moriyama assisted Eikoh.

6. Raghubir Singh, India

India’s pioneer and master of color photography and best known for his vivid, complexly layered photographs of his home country. Read more on Raghubir Singh here: Raghubir Singh and the Importance of Identity.

7. Lu Nan, China

Lu Nan is acclaimed for his documentary on patients at mental hospitals and Catholicism in China, and peasant life in Tibet. His photographs were previously distributed by Magnum Agency.

8. Nick Ut, Vietnam

Born in Long An, Viet Nam, Nick Ut photographed what most would argue the single, most iconic image of the tragedies suffered during the Vietnam War.

9. Rinko Kawauchi, Japan

Best known for serene and poetic photographs depicting the ordinary moments in life, Rinko is one of very few celebrated female photographers in Asia.

10. Dayanita Singh, India

Best known for her portraits of India’s urban middle and upper-class families, Dayanita describes herself as a ‘bookmaker working with Photography’.

11. Lu Guang, China

One of China’s most regarded documentary photographers today, Lu Guang focuses on contemporary social and economic issues in China, notably the country’s industrialization and pollution.

12. Tay Kay Chin, Singapore

Singapore’s most respected practitioner, educator and mentor in photojournalism and documentary photography. Kay Chin is best known for his award-winning panoramic documentary of Singapore and his evangelism at PLATFORM, a Singapore photography group he co-founded. Read our exclusive interview with Kay Chin here: Invisible Interview & Photo Essay: Tay Kay Chin.

13. Oscar Motuloh, Indonesia

One of Indonesia’s most renowned photojournalists and founder of Antara Gallery for Photojournalism (Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara), an organisation involved with curation, education and exhibition.

14. Shomei Tomatsu, Japan

Regarded by some as the man who changed Japanese photography forever, Shomei is part of the Post-War Japan generation of photographers alongside Eikoh Hosoe, photographing iconic images of change and flux in their country.

15. Ho Fan, Hong Kong

Probably Hong Kong’s most awarded photographer, with a masterful body of work in the classical street photography tradition. Check out Fan Ho’s Photo Essay on IPA:  Ho Fan – A Hong Kong Legend Returns.

16. Takuma Nakahira, Japan

Friends with Shomei Tomatsu and Daido Moriyama, his photobook For a Language to Come (Kitarubeki kotoba no tame ni) has been described as “a masterpiece of reductionism.”

17. Shahidul Alam, Bangladesh

Godfather of photography in Bangladesh, Shahidul founded the highly regarded Drik Picture Agency and Chobi Mela, one of Asia’s premier photography festivals. He also founded Majority World, an initiative formed to provide a platform for indigenous photographers.

18. Erik Prasetya, Indonesia

Regarded as a peer to Oscar Motuloh, Erik Prasetya is best known for his improvisational street photography and documentary journal of Jakarta amassed over 15 years. Check out his Photo Essay feature on IPA: The Banal Aesthetics of Erik Prasetya’s JAKARTA

19. Chang Tsai, Taiwan

Chang Tsai is known as one of the ‘3 Swordsmen’ of Taiwanese Photography during the 1930s to 1950s. Tsai’s most famous quote: “I am not highly educated. I just use my camera to observe people and things. It doesn’t have to appear artistic.”

20. Alex Baluyut, Philippines

One of Philippines’ preeminent names in photojournalism, Alex is also a founding faculty member of the Diploma in Photojournalism programme at Ateneo de Manila University.

All photographs copyright their respective creators.

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Comments 271

  1. Japan 6 : India 3 : Indonesia 2 : China 2: Taiwan 2 : Sinagapore 1 : Philippines 1 : Bangladesh 1 : Vietnam 1 : Hongkong 1

  2. I would also consider Rong Rong & Inri influential for China and Hiromix from Japan for the snapshot/diary style

  3. Fashion, advertising and wedding photographers will not agree! :-)
    This list is for documentary,photojournalism and street photography genre!

  4. I hope you considered some really influential Asian photographer in the field of photojournalism like Andy Hernandez and Albert Garcia . Although Andy has retired but he is a pioneer among Asian photographers to shoot for International news agency like Newsweek and AP back in the 70s, 80s and 90s. He covered the fall of communism in Russia and the First Gulf War. And Albert Garcia still in circulation working as chief photographer for The Manila Bulletin A Philippine english daily paper is one of the Asian photographer whose picture of the Mount Pinatubo eruption back in the 1990s is considered by Time, Newsweek, Life as one of the Best images of the Century … how inlfuential can one get with these as one of your life’s work as a photographer :D

  5. Good subjects, good post. However, there are many ‘most’ influential photographers in Asia, not just 20. You seem to have overlooked the likes of Masao Endo and Hiroji Kubota.

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