Project

Famous Photographers and Their Most Iconic Shots

Photographer Tim Mantoani has been shooting some of the world’s most legendary photographers with their most famous photographs. The series, spanning five years, has 158 portraits.



Behind Photographs. Archiving Photographic Legends’ is the name of a photo project and a book by Tim Mantoani that he has been working on for five years. He has photographed Elliot Erwitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Steve McCurry, Neil Leifer, William Wegman, Nick Ut and many others (a total of 158 masters of photography). Below each portrait is a note by the subject in his/her own handwriting about when, where and how he/she managed to create their most recognizable shot. In 2011, Mantoani published a book that can be purchased at the project website.

“It was important to step back and understand that cameras didn’t make these photos, photographers made these photos,” Mantoani says in an interview with Wired magazine. “Without these people and their understanding of photography, these moments would not be there for us to understand and appreciate over the course of time.”

A digital version of the book Behind Photographs, that has previously unpublished video footage featuring the shooting process, can be purchased on iTunes.


Herman Leonard


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It was early 1948 at the Royal Roost in New York. The afternoon rehearsal gave me a unique opportunity to photograph many giants of jazz with my trustworthy 4×5 Speed Graphic. What a great career! To do what you love and be entertained at the same time!


Barbara Bordnick


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In 1977 I was commissioned by Polaroid to create a project to introduce large format Polacolor. I chose to do a calendar of the women in the jazz called “A Song I Can See” using 8×10 Polacolor. This photograph is of Helen Humes, jazz vocalist, photographed in my studio in NYC, who was on the cover of the calendar.


Carl Fischer


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Muhammad Ali, New York, 1967.


David Doubilet


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Circle of Barracuda, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. 
The school of chevron barracudas circled the diver three times and pow they were gone into a dark afternoon sea.   The oceans of the world have no straight lines; geometry, like a perfect circle, is a rare thing, but these barracudas will do this as a defense.  70% of our planet is an ocean.  It is a place of infinite hidden beauty.  It is a place where light behaves in a very different manner.  Global warming/ climate change is about water.  Coral reefs, where I have spent most of my life, are very threatened now – not just from rising temperatures but from the change in ocean chemistry. This is a world where my partner, Jennifer Hayes, and I go into.  It is most of our planet.  A world without corners that may be gone by the end of the century.


Karen Kuehn


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“Cats Story” shot for National Geographic. The director Thomas Kennedy asked me to shoot an entire story about “Cats.” He did not want it to be typical! So problem solving this assignment was good fun. The Russian Blue Cat and Ballerina Legs was inspired by George Balanchine – he used the idea of cats landing – always on their toes to teach his dancers.


Steve McCurry


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Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984.
I looked for this girl for 17 years and finally found her in 2002. Her name is Sharbat Gula.


Duglas Kirkland


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This is from my “Evening with Marilyn.”


Elliott Erwitt


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The picture I am holding was snapped in 1974 just across the street from my apartment in New York’s Central Park. It has been 38 years since that event, and sadly I have lost track of the participants.


Jeff Widener


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Beijing, 1989.


Jim Marshall


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Taken at San Quentin Prison — Soundcheck 1969.


Julius Shulman


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My portrait: a photographer’s responsibility to capture “my essence”! A pleasing reward to respond to my personal procedure. I am called by my good friend, Benedikt Taschen, “One Shot Shulman.” This “scene” was also a one shot endeavour!


Mary Ellen Mark


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I am holding my photograph of Ram Prakash Singh with his beloved elephant Shyama – taken in 1990 . Ram Prakash Singh was the ringmaster of the “The Great Golden Circus” – The photograph was done in Ahmedabad India – This was part of my Indian Circus Project – I love India and I love the circus so photographing eighteen circuses all around India was an incredible experience – Unfortunately Shyama died a few months after this photograph was taken – Supposedly he succumbed to a poisoned chapatti. Ram Prakash Singh was heartbroken – me also.


May Pang


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Summer 1974, Long Island, N.Y. A relaxing time with his son Julian. I called this photo “Family Portrait.”


Nick Ut


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June 8, 1972. Trang Bang village. Kim Phuc, 9 year old girl. South Vietnam[ese planes – editor’s note] dropped napalm on her village.


Lori Grinker


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Mike Tyson – 1980, age 14. I began a project on young boxers when I was a student. The legendary Cus D’Amato told me Mike would be the next great heavy weight champion. He was right, and I continued on with him for nearly a decade. He was a troubled, but a sweet kid, who turned off the good path he was led into with all that comes with being a celebrity in this world.


Vincent Laforet


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I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some pretty amazing things in my relatively young career that began twenty years ago. Many were beautiful, others were horrifying. Most were important moments in history. One of the important things that I’ve learned through aerial photography is that taking a step backwards (or in this case 1, 500 feet up) ironically often forces the viewer to become even more intimate with the image as they study it in much greater detail, and are forced to let their imagination take over. “Me and My Human,” Central Park, NYC.


Neil Leifer


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Ali vs Liston.


Thomas Mangelsen


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I pre-visualized this possibility (of an image like this) from watching documentary films about the bears at Katmai and seeing a photograph in Alaska Air Magazine of a group of bears here at the falls. At the time, I was on a flight to Anchorage working on a documentary film about Sandhill Cranes and had a week between shoots. I phoned the park headquarters from the airport in Achorage and asked about getting a campsite. They said they were all full – except for one site that was near the bear trail and nobody wanted it. I told them I would take it. I spent a week on a small platform above the falls trying to capture this image. I would go most days before sunrise and stay until dark. During that time I shot 35 rolls of film of pretty much just head + shoulders of bears + sockeye salmon leaping the falls. Six weeks later I opened the yellow box to see this image. It was a nice surprise. I hadn’t known that I got it.


Harry Benson


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Harry Benson: Brian Epstein – the Beatles Manager – had just told them they were number one in America – and I was coming with them to New York. 1964.




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