Gaspard-Félix Tournachon

1820 (Paris) – 1910 (Paris)

Nadar and Verne were close friends, keen on aviation and a bohemian lifestyle. Gautier was a lifelong friend (publishing many of his photos), Doré another (Nadar collecting his work). He was close to the writers Vigny, Sand, Dumas, the Goncourts and Nerval, while the impressionists Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, Morisot, Degas and Pissarro rented his studio to hold their first exhibition. Chevreul met him many times, Baudelaire praised his vitality, and Murger died of syphilis in his arms. He helped out the blind Daumier, photographed his old friend Hugo on his death-bed, and in old age befriended Mistral in Marseille.

Richard Avedon

1923 (New York) – 2004 (San Antonio, Tex.)

Avedon’s distinctive style made him one of the great photographic portraitists. He and Baldwin were school-mates and lasting close friends, collaborating over a 30-year period. As a ten-year-old, Avedon photographed Rachmaninoff, living in the same building as his grandparents. Among others he portrayed, he read Kipling to Borges, played lawn-darts with de Kooning, caught Williams and Pound at their last meeting, and Chaplin on his final day in America. Arbus, Capote and Tharp were close friends. Astaire gave him a pair of shoes that didn’t fit (and played a character based on Avedon). Frank found him pretentious and pushy.

Robert Frank

1924 (Zürich) –

One of the most significant 20th-century photographers, Frank revolutionised documentary photography, and played a considerable part in the U.S. independent scene. Evans regarded him as his protégé, played a huge part in getting him a Guggenheim grant to travel the country, and became a close friend. Frank stayed in Segal’s basement, collaborated with Kerouac (met on the sidewalk outside a party) and Leslie (though they fell out over credits), and explained to Jagger that he found Richards more interesting. Ginsberg was a lifelong friend. Eugene Smith, who knew him, called him the Franz Kafka of photography.

Robert Frank knew…

Robert Doisneau

1912 (Gentilly, France) – 1994 (Paris)

Doisneau’s sympathetic yet sharp-eyed photography helped show life as it was: a true poet. As a young man, he met the aged Atget. Sent to photograph Cendrars, Doisneau and he became close accomplices; similarly with Jacques Prévert. Kertesz was one of Doisneau’s heroes (they were photographed together); Penn, he said, was very kind to him. He met Cartier-Bresson at an agency both worked for; despite his admiration for and close friendship with Cartier-Bresson, Seymour and Capa, he decided not to join Magnum. He photographed Corbusier over several years, Johns and Beckett together, as well as his friend Mac Orlan.

Robert Doisneau knew…

William Henry Fox Talbot

1800 (Melbury, England) – 1877 (Lacock)

Talbot (or Fox Talbot – both are used, though Talbot is correct), one of the great founders of photography, was also a noted mathematician, astronomer, botanist and more. His two great lifelong friends and colleagues were John Herschel and Brewster; Herschel’s chemical knowledge and terminological wisdom were critical, while Brewster’s interest in light and optics closely paralleled Talbot’s own. Talbot worked with Arago at his Paris observatory, ordered optics from Fraunhofer, and swapped seeds with Hooker. He corresponded with Crelle about calculus, Hincks about cuneiform translation and Zach about astronomy, among many others.

John Herschel

1792 (Slough, England) – 1871 (Hawkhurst)

Herschel, the first to properly map the southern hemisphere stars, also gave the world clear photographic terminology and a number of significant processes. His father William and aunt Caroline were both important influences. He studied alongside Babbage (a close friend and fellow-worker for life), Peacock and Whewell. Darwin, Sedgwick, Lyell and Cameron were all good friends. He showed another friend, Talbot, whom he’d met while both were visiting Fraunhofer, how to fix his pioneering images. Faraday and he, Royal Society colleagues, were warm to one another, while Wollaston helped him find his real métier.

Henri-Victor Regnault

1810 (Aix-la-Chapelle, France, now Aachen, Germany) – 1878 (Auteuil, France)

Regnault made extensive contributions to 19th-century chemistry (he was the first to synthesise PVC, albeit accidentally) and physics (showing Boyle’s law to be only approximate), as well as contributing to the development of photography. He worked under Liebig, and was Gay-Lussac’s demonstrator at the École Polytechnique. He collaborated with Foucault on research into binocular vision, was a colleague of Biot’s, and wrote a comprehensive chemistry textbook, influential in both its French and German editions. Bunsen, Herschel and Airy were correspondents.

Edward S. Curtis

Edward Sheriff Curtis

1868 (Whitewater, Wisc.) – 1952 (Whittier, Calif.)

Curtis met Grinnell by chance while out photographing in the wilderness, Grinnell and colleagues being lost. Curtis guided them back, Grinnell saw his work, and as a result invited him to join an expedition to record Blackfeet culture. Muir and Ridgway were fellow-members of Harriman’s 1899 Alaska expedition, Curtis being a key member (the meeting with Grinnell also led to this appointment). Cunningham worked in Curtis’s studio, though only met him twice, and described him as a determined egoist. Flaherty called on him in New York, aware of shared interests, and found him supportive, sympathetic and father-like.

Edward S. Curtis knew…

Maxime du Camp

1822 (Paris) – 1894 (Baden Baden, Germany)

Du Camp was as much adventurer as writer. Flaubert was a lifelong intimate friend, sending him his manuscripts for comment before publication. They took a walking tour of Brittany before their 21-month expedition to Egypt, Syria and Palestine (dedicated to the exploration of low-life pursuits as much as to historical remains). Du Camp’s archaeological photographs were pioneering — the first time travel books had used the medium. Gautier was another close friend and associate; the two founded a literary review, in which ‘Madame Bovary’ first appeared. Gray taught him photography; Sand asked Flaubert for du Camp’s address, so she could write to him.

Dora Maar

1907 (Tours, France) – 1997 (Paris)

Cartier-Bresson had been a fellow-student of painting. Éluard introduced her to Picasso, who became her lover for 8 years (it was Picasso and Éluard who sent her to be treated by Lacan). Hugnet and Crevel were among the surrealists she already knew, as was Man Ray, who (it seems) had unsuccessfully pursued her. Brassaï shared a darkroom with her, Éluard wrote a poem for her, and Breton made a surrealist ‘song-object’ for her. She gravitated into the circle around her friend Bataille, and collaborated with Picasso on a series of photo-etchings (she was unique among his lovers as an artist in her own right).