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Imaging technology may have dramatically altered the practice of commercial photography in the last 60 years, but it hasn’t diminished the power of a compelling image. To give you a brief overview of the evolution and diversity of this most visual of media, we’ve selected a handful of influential photographs from our archives, along with comments culled from some of the 198 profiles we’ve published on many of the most esteemed practitioners of the craft.

Left: Otto Storch, Portfolio photograph, 1965.
Right: Art Kane, Ad for Pfizer, 1966.


“A photographer sees more than other people do. He is always on the lookout for something interesting.” —Philippe Halsman, 1961


Left: Tom McCarthy, Eastern Airlines ad campaign, 1966.
Right: Richard Avedon, The Beatles for Look, 1968.


“Photography is a matter of concentration and philosophy. I must communicate with a blade of grass to show its magnificence. I cannot do this by shooting at it!” —Ruth Bernhard, 1959


Left: Irving Penn, Hell’s Angel for Look, 1968.
Right: Henry Wolf, Ad for Olivetti typewriters, 1970.


“I believe in emotion, whether that emotion is mine or the client’s. If a photograph is going to touch people, it has to make them feel something.” —Cheryl Rossum, 1977


Left: Bert Stern, Book cover of Marilyn: A Biography, 1974.
Right: Jay Maisel, For Celebration at Persepolis, a book recording the Persian Empire’s 2500th anniversary, 1975.


“The creative photographer should be able to put the stamp of his way of ‘seeing,’ his personal eye, on whatever material he touches—just as does the creative painter or poet.” —Clarence John Laughlin, 1977


Left: Victor Skrebneski, Portrait of Orson Welles for Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1975.
Right: Pete Turner, Photograph for Esso annual report, 1976.


“There is something about making pictures day after day, every day, of ideas, using your mind to solve different problems, and then seeing them—it’s a treat, at least most of the time.”  —Ron Scott, 1977


“Light moves through a shot. It has a force, a driving force. It pushes into something. I use the dynamics of light to bring you into the picture. It’s like a vacuum that can suck you right in.” —Clint Clemens, 1983


Left: Phil Marco, Photograph for S. D. Scott desk calendar, 1979.
Right: Joe Baraban, Cover of Lomas & Nettleton annual report, 1980.


“An idea is just that, an idea. When you actually execute this idea, you may wind up with something completely different than the original visual idea, but the feeling is still there.” —Barbara Bordnick, 1987


Left: Arthur Meyerson, Personal photograph, 1985.
Right: Jean Moss, Portrait of Walter Cronkite for Esquire, 1986.


“People don’t pay you to experiment. They want to know what you can do before they come to your studio. When people start thinking they want to use you, they try to finesse the layouts toward your strengths.”  —Dennis Manarchy, 1981


Left: Annie Leibovitz, Record cover of Cyndi Lauper’s What’s Going On, 1988.
Right: Sheila Metzner, Uma in a Patou dress and hat for British Vogue, 1992.


“Quality and quantity of light, that’s the magic—understanding where it comes from, especially the ambient light and fusing it with a flash. To me, the ambient light is always the hero, the dominating factor.” —Harry De Zitter, 1990


Left: John Huet, For a book on street basketball, 1993.
Right: Sue Bennett, Antonio, a Tarahumara Indian, for Natural History, 1994.


“I love taking pictures of circuses. Talk about symbols—the sense of fantasy and humor and irony and tragedy—and theater! It can be a tough way of life, but people love it. It gets in their blood.” —Mary Ellen Mark, 1997


Left: Nadav Kander, Ad for Zij, a women’s clothing store in the Netherlands, 1996.
Right: Rodney Smith, Neiman Marcus magazine ad, 1998.


“My subject matter doesn’t separate me from what my colleagues do in fashion or annual reports. I go out with certain images in mind—very much like a commercial photographer. There’s always serendipity. Luck always takes over.” —Frans Lanting, 1998


“It’s very important to become well read and well educated; read the classics, study mythology, be up on current events so you can talk to the people you’re photographing.” —Rosanne Olson, 2004


Left: Craig Cutler, For an Audubon article on certified-wood products, 2001.
Right: Martin Schoeller, Portrait of Christopher Walken for Entertainment Weekly, 2002.


“This sounds crazy, but the thing about inanimate objects is that if you listen, they’ll tell you how to shoot them.” —Deborah Jones, 2001


Left: David Allan Brandt, Image for American Tower Corporation, 2004.
Right: Kate Brooks, For a TIME article on Najaf, Iraq, after a car bomb exploded at the Imam Ali Mosque, 2004.


“If you can get your subject to be unaware of the camera, then you might get some truth out of who they are.”  —William Huber, 2006


Left: Bryce Duffy, Portrait of rapper and actor Ice Cube for Premiere, 2008.
Right: Mark Zibert, Actor Hayden Christensen featured on the cover of GQ Russia and in Vanity Fair, 2010.


“I want to show a world people don’t know … where there are moments of transcendence even in a broken place. I don’t want to confirm our understanding of the world—I want to expand it.” —Glenna Gordon, 2015


Left: Callie Shell, For a TIME article on President Obama on the day he lost the Senate, 2011.
Right: Laurie Frankel, Cover of a Roost Home Furnishings catalog, 2011.


“I often use the extreme in my work to speak to the mainstream of the culture.” —Lauren Greenfield, 2011


Left: Evan Kafka, Print ad for Huggies Natural Care Wipes, 2013.
Right: Art Streiber, Portrait of Michael Keaton for Entertainment Weekly, 2015.


“The more you shoot and experiment, the more your work will evolve and become refined over time. Just like any craft, it’s something that just gets better over time with practice.” —Dana Neibert, 2016


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