Photography has nothing to do with the cameras. It is about communicating with the subject. “When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them,” said acclaimed photographer Annie Leibovitz.

A good photo is one that sends a message, touches the heart and inspires people with a different point of view. But the life of a photographer is and was never an easy one. The effort needed to just stand out from the crowd is synonymous to grasping at straws. It is a vicious cycle, especially when photography revolves around highly opinionated people like editors, creative directors, fashion designers, stylists and famous celebrities.

Annie Leitbovitz in action. (Credit: Getty)

In the context of fashion photography, it covers a wide spectrum of not just the pretty little things but also all the movements that take place in fashion. It is more than just beautiful clothes, big hair and the poses of a contortionist.

Delved in the pop culture vocabulary of hyper-sexuality, cyberpunk, feminism, diversity, social equality and the bourgeois society, photographers in the early 1980s and 1990s used their lenses to send a strong message across the glossy pages of the magazines they worked with. During that time, popular international magazines like Vogue, Rolling Stone and GQ were the platforms for the opinionated to have a voice – and it was through photographs that created a new generation who changed the world of fashion and entertainment forever.

A controversial photo shot by Bruce Weber. (Credit: Bruce Weber)

The subjects of photography were also worshipped like Greek gods and goddesses on pedestals. In the early 80s, aspiring young models rose to stardom with just one photo taken. Actors and artists begged for a career through under-the-table connections with photographers and filmmakers.

It seemed like photographers had an ultimatum on the careers of so many famous personalities including the likes of Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Farah Fawcett, Tom Hintnaus, Alex Lundqvist, Linda Evangelista, Tyra Banks and many more.

A portrait of Madonna by Patrick Demarchelier.

While it is said that photography “takes an image, freezes a moment and reveals how rich reality truly is”, each captured image is a reminder of the little things, long after one has forgotten everything. When Madonna had her first daughter, she engaged renowned photographer Mario Testino to take photographs of her little girl. Testino also immortalised the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. And of late, he shot a picture perfect moment of Serena Williams and her daughter for the 2018’s February issue of Vogue.

These famous photographers have been known for their unapologetic points of view and with their talented eye in capturing (and composing) their vision effectively, they push boundaries with just the right amount of controversy. Each of them is unique and carries an individual style. We take a look at some of the most iconic yet controversial photographers in history, and how they have changed the way we look at fashion photographs today.