PDN 30 Photographers To Watch- 2009


PDN just published their annual list of 30 photographers to watch. See it here or go get a copy on the newsstand. This annual list has always been something worth checking out for photo editors looking for new talent and new approaches to old ideas. What makes this list great is there’s no entry fee. Someone with influence nominates you and then from the pool of nominees the editors pick 30. Some years the list is stronger than others but it really depends on the pool of people they are pulling from.

The only gripe I have with this and all the other contests out there as far as this goes is with the way they present the work online. Photo editors have been using the internets for quite awhile now so why don’t they take the lists of photographers and present it in an easy to use format. Getting published in the magazine is all well and good but the real value is in the potential to land jobs from it.

I’ve decided to do it for them this one time so you can see how useful it might be. I added my own keyword descriptions just to help people quickly find what they’re looking for although I need to find a better way to parse the term “Fine Art” and documentary or photojournalism because those terms cover too much ground. I would add reference photos but I think PDN might not like that.

New York
Kathryn Parker Almanas- Clinton, NY [Fine art interior/still life]
Lucas Foglia- New York, NY [People in landscape with a fine art influence]
Wendy Ball and Dara Albanese- Brooklyn, NY [Traditional travel]
Martine Fougeron New York, NY [Fine art youth lifestyle]
Chiara Goia Brooklyn, NY [Color documentary with a fine art influence]
Flora Hanitijo- Brooklyn, NY [Dense color, fine art people and places]
Cornelia Hediger- New York, NY [Fine art self portrait interiors]
Victoria Hely-Hutchinson- Brooklyn, NY [Fine art color people and places]
Jared Moossy- New York, NY [B/W and color photojournalism]
James Pomerantz- Brooklyn, NY [Color documentary]
Fernando Souto- Brooklyn, NY [B/W Documentary]
Lucas Zarebinski- New York, NY [Food and product still life]

Chloe Aftel- Los Angeles, CA [Lifestyle with a snapshotty/polaroid aesthetic]
Cole Barash- Oceanside, CA [Snowboard sports and lifestyle (Caution: Music)]
Melissa Kaseman- San Francisco, CA [Fine art objects, people and places]
Lisa Wiseman- San Francisco, CA [Fine art people]

Corey Arnold Portland, OR [Rich color documentary with a fine art appeal]
Toni Greaves- Portland, OR [Color documentary with a fine art influence]

Alejandro Chaskielberg- Capital Federal, Argentina [Fine art narrative with rich color and shallow depth of field]
Emma Livingston- Buenos Aires, Argentina [Fine art color landscape]

Adam Ferguson- Newport, Australia [Color photojournalism]

Julian Faulhaber- Dortmund, Germany [Fine art graphic interior and exterior with patterns and everyday subjects]
Susanne Ludwig- Hamburg, Germany [Fine art people and empty industrial interiors and objects in patterns]

Nathan Harger- Cleveland, OH [Graphic industrial fine art]

Washington DC
Jeff Hutchens, Washington, DC [Color and B/W documentary with a modern aesthetic]

Justin Maxon- Philadelphia, PA [B/W and color photojournalism]

Dominic Nahr- Cairo, Egypt [Color photojournalism]

Kosuke Okahara- Yokyo, Japan [B/W documentary]

Ryan Pyle- Shanghai, China [Color documentary]

Darren Soh- Singapore, Singapore [Traditional color industrial and modern natural landscape]

There Are 86 Comments On This Article.

    • 1 more for the rodeo

      I still think they should publish a forty over forty and a fifty over fifty just to tick-off the young ones who think everything great is created by someone under 30. But then, PDN found that out and changed the name….

    • @Old & In The Way, I’m pretty sure they stopped that only a few years in. They didn’t want to eliminate photographers who started their photo careers later in life.

  1. This is useful, thanks Rob.

    As much as I’m inclined to hype our web site, the PDN’s 30 section really shines on the printed page. There’s a full page for each photographer. The March issue just shipped, so subscribers should have it or should get it soon. You can also find it at some bigger newsstands, camera shops, Barnes & Noble, etc.

    • @Daryl Lang,

      With all due respect, you sound like a newspaper publisher, with that response. Riding down the Titanic, in defense, with your blinders on. Truly, you need to get outside of Manhattan for a while, and compare the experience of finding PDN on the web to the experiene of finding PDN in a printed form. Am I going to deal with parking structures, or strip centers, and traffic, to track down the printed version, or am I just going to sit in the comfort of my home and type a few characters? Think about that.

      Also, I went to the site to view it, and somehow, it seems to lack some kind of tool to search by Style or Content. I’m not going to sit through twenty chapters of fine-art navel-gazing if I’m looking for a PJ guy.

      • Debra Weiss


        You can always buy a subscription. Then you won’t have to deal with those pesky parking structures and traffic.

        • @Debra Weiss,

          Ah, we have another Newspaper Publisher in the crowd, I see. Welcome.

          • Debra Weiss


            Nope – not a publisher. I just like seeing photographs in print.

            As photographers, you really don’t want to see magazines vanish because when they do so will most of you and you’ll get to have a really expensive hobby.

            That light you’re so fond of staring into? It’s the headlight of 200 mph train and it’s coming straight at you.

            • @Debra Weiss,

              It exists alright… It links me to lots of other creative consultants who have an online strategy.

              • Debra Weiss

                @Chris V.,

                And if that’s your criteria for hiring a consultant, good luck.

                • @Debra Weiss,

                  quote: “And if that’s your criteria for hiring a consultant, good luck.”

                  If someone was contemplating hiring you for consultation, do you not think that that prospective customer might want to do some research on you, or get a feel on what you’re about? Do you not think that even a simple website would be appropriate in these modern times? What is your reasoning behind this? To stay so exclusive that you become uber-cool?

                  How do people look at you when they ask you for your website, and you reply that you don’t have one?

                  • 1 more for the rodeo


                    She relies on this web site and APA National forums to get her name out.

                  • Debra Weiss


                    I have a referral business model and while having a website (actually a splash page would be more to my liking) might be a good idea, I haven’t really had the time to put one up.

                    If someone were contemplating hiring me, I would much rather engage them in conversation.

                    This is not about being cool. While my client’s are selective as to whom they work with, so am I. I choose to work with only those that I can be of real benefit to and can enjoy collaborating with.

  2. It’s presented so badly online (as always), you have to just assume they simply don’t have the budget (or time?) to create anything else for the web. It’s looked nearly the same for several years now…

  3. I’m very impressed with this years selection, much more diverse and inspiring than last years choices.

    side note: its much better in printed form

    • @Jonathan,
      Really, more diverse? This is my frustration with PDN’s picks nearly always, it’s always documentary/photojournalist/fine art types of photographers. I’m not sure how this is useful to someone looking to get someone fresh to shoot their campaign or even do a portrait of someone for a magazine. They generally lean toward those types of photographers and photography that utilize natural light, take no art direction and focus on the snaps.

      • @Anthony,

        I agree… I also thought the cover shot was extremely similar to Zachary Scott’s NYT magazine cover that got some attention in the last couple years, but much much less good, to say it politely…

      • @Anthony,
        It’s their taste in photography that determines the results. As much as editors like to think they can be objective and serve their audience or the industry the bias of your personal taste in photography and knowledge of the industry will always be there.

      • @Anthony,

        I’m sorry, You have misunderstood me.

        I was talking in terms of location, age and body of work.

        Either way everything looks different to everyone.

        On another note the problems you have with their picks has become a popular trend in advertising.

        FRESH new/different work.

        • @Jonathan,
          I see. That’s true, the age and location has been mixed up. They aren’t all from Brooklyn now.

          Yes, it WAS popular, but now it’s over. And, they aren’t fresh nor new nor different. Few are anyway. I struggle to see, among the 30, many that standout from the past few years or even the current 30. Maybe it’s just me.

  4. The 30 under 30 website is horrible. From my RSS reader it took 4 clicks to get to the first winner. Then if you click the photographer interview a new window pops up. Clicking the Photoserve portfolio link results in another popup. The Editors note takes you back to the splash page. Thank you link= another popup…….

  5. Mark Murrmann

    Yup, you nailed it Rob. This list is really helpful. Thanks.

    And count me as one who still loves to see the images in the magazine, on a printed page.

  6. Certainly I realize that it’s their taste – it’s been that way for quite awhile, but it’s still baffling in a lot of ways.

    I’ve known a good number of the 30 over the past 8 years or so and a lot of them have gone on to do really well, but they mostly weren’t ‘of that style’ mentioned earlier. One or two that were/are got some ad jobs and then forever faded back into obscurity.

    PDNs 30 is often touted as a resource by many and I’m sure it’s their aim to be relevant, it’s just that they aren’t lately. There are no shortage of the types of photographers that they generally pick and the types of photography they represent don’t pay. I also know of few professional photojournalists who bother reading pdn. Who is it that they’re catering to here? It’s downright boring the last few years and I don’t need be informed about the next navel gazer or Estonian with depressing snapshots.

  7. Matthias Bruggmann

    Beyond the practicality of one-click access to the good stuff, the most interesting part of your post to me was your own qualifiers for the work presented – the way you’re classifying it all. would you mind elaborating on it ?

    • @Matthias Bruggmann,
      I was just trying to categorize/keyword their style as I would have done in the past for future reference.

      It’s not uncommon if you have a story in Hawaii that you would like to hire a photojournalist to shoot in color to make a list of photojournalists who shoot color and live in LA.

    • @Adam,
      are you serious? if they added the UK there would be one less slot for Brooklyn hipsters.
      Hipsters with cereal boxes and popping the finger? Didn’t Terry pull this like a decade ago? If that was on Flickr NO ONE would take a second look much less comment.
      Hipsters on the grass. Hipsters in “polaroid style” Hipsters in Alpaca hats, hipsters with their backs turned….tell me again how this is good photography?
      and no, I didn’t submit. And I’m under 35.

      • @snapper,

        if you didn’t apply then why are you so angry? I never got what there is all this backlash against the so-called “Hipster” what ever happened to bashing the “squares”? in my opinion they are the enemy. I am tired of people bashing hipsters. its as old as a trucker hat but even the wannabe hip are not wearing those.

  8. As an emerging photographer (not worth watching I guess), I can only assume that my style is either not worth watching…or I literally have no peers. Thanks PDN, I’ll take that as a compliment.

    • @shane,

      How to be recognized in the “30 to watch”:

      Use high contrast
      Avoid color. Gray and brown are best.
      Photograph children in awkward positions.
      Photograph the elderly in awkward positions.
      Grit grit grit!

    • @shane,
      1) Be from Brooklyn
      2) Have hipster friends doing one of two things: being “outrageous” OR looking despondent and sullen (in hipster clothes).
      3) look at LOTS of McGinley and Richardson…whose book Terryworld they give out with your security deposit in BKLYN.

  9. scott Rex Ely

    My students will want to know exactly what this means: [Color and B/W documentary with a modern aesthetic]
    Any suggestions? Is it a style that can be articulated or something that is exclusive to a particular few shooters? Do we name the shooters that shoot like this to describe “it” or can this style be elaborated upon? Thanks, SRE.

    • @scott Rex Ely,
      I felt like his use of color and graphical elements plus the compositions gave the images more of a modern/hip appeal. I did it pretty fast so it’s just an initial reaction not a true classification.

      • @A Photo Editor,
        I like the ‘with a modern aesthetic’. Jeff Hutchen’s work reminds me a bit of Michael Christopher Brown’s work and I think your description APE is spot on. Thanks for the list.

        • scott Rex Ely

          @Thomas Pickard, What caught my eye was Rob used “fine art” for 11 of the photographers and that was mixed between describing the content or the delivery and “Modern aesthetic” for just one.

  10. Find this years PDN 30 alittle week. The website for the 30 really does sucks ass, guess budgets are being cut everyone.

  11. While I enjoy the annual PDN 30 issue generally, I find this year’s bland and of the generic “somber art school graduate still shooting film, cursing this cold wicked world” type.

    I can’t recall a more forgettable 30 issue… sign o the times I guess.

    I like the german architecture guy though. Good stuff. And the self-taught Hong Kong-er.

  12. would of loved to see more advertising/editorial shooters on the PDN list – there is always next year right?

  13. I was disappointed that there were none from Canada listed, but then I noticed Dominic Nahr in the slideshow; while not listed as Canadian (born in Switzerland and raised in Hong Kong), when he was in his early days at Ryerson University in Toronto, we traveled together to the first VII workshop in Boston.

    When he showed me his portfolio (this is four years ago), I said to him right away that he was one of the best photographers I had met, and he is. He’s young but has an amazing eye and I am so proud that he is part of this list if it helps further his career.

    And for those who wonder about the utility of this list, I think it serves a great purpose: to give attention to people other than the greats who are making a mint off their brand, and to affirm to struggling young artists and journalists (often both are starving) that they are doing good work.


  14. I wonder about the photos by the photojournalist listed – especially Dominic Nahr, Justin Maxon, Adam Ferguson, + Kosuke Okahara. They are obviously processed (heavily-handed IMO) and do a great deal to add mood and emotion to the shots.

    Does this not go against the photojournalist’s code of not over-processing or something?

  15. No fashion what so ever…? Is there a prejudice against color and fashion in general…? Or is PDN geared toward reportage, fine art etc… unequivocally? I thought it leaned toward great photo’s in general…

    • @Jan,
      Thank you for submitting to the PDN 30! While your work is certainly engaging, it lacks the “realness” that we are looking for. This year we thought we’d focus on youth in New York. We found that “contrived” shots like yours did not hold up against “random” “environmental” photographs like Hipsters having hip cereal looking hip.
      Please shell out next year! And remember, we can’t guarantee your selection if you’re not from New York!
      The Jury.

      In all seriousness, Jan your work is TIGHT. As an editor, I would submit your stuff to Wallpaper or Surface for their annual design/photography awards. MUCH more respect there from the industry. PDN is little more than your mom trying to fit in with the kids…..

      • @snapper, I hope it didn’t come across as whining. I was legitimately curious about PDN and if they accepted fashion submissions. :) And thank you for the complement! Keep up the great work.

  16. I’m simultaneously blown away and excited a primarily snowboard (Cole Barash) photographer was included by PDN.

    Cole, if anyone in our circle, deserves this most readily.

    Interesting that someone at PDN was aware enough to step outside still life shoots, silvershotz issues and soho to scope whats going on in such a niche market.. and nail down Cole as the guy who’s changing it.

  17. TWELVE of the chosen photographers are from New York????

    That’s laughably biased.

  18. It used to be more like a mix of fashion, still life and fine arts shooters in the PDN 30s, photographer like Clang ,Toledano or Alec Soth and many more are having great success in commercial and fine art photography(rightfully so), also i think Tarin Symon was one of the PDN 30s and she is a superb fine art photographer. Now Pdn judges are choosing more fine art photographers but they also have sport and still life and i think it’s great that it’s different than 3 or 4 years ago and maybe next year will be more fashion or ads photographers. Most of the times they got it right and i am not an art critic but i really like the selection this year, they even put a couple of still life photographers and that’s great.

    • @GTFU, These are selections by a certain group of people who have certain artistic tastes. There are no right or wrong selections. To borrow from the cliche’, it’s all subjective. The problem is that some people feel that PDN is a validation of being a good photographer and that’s not necessarily the case. It simply means that THIS group of jurors found these artists to be noteworthy. Being a part of this group means that you’re one of the top 30 emerging photographers according to this jury. Another jury might choose an entirely different group, all according to various artistic, as well as other factors.

      I congratulate the winners of this years ‘Top 30’ and hope that the attention brings new opportunities for you. For others who didn’t make the cut, keep shooting from your heart, not for attention. Validation comes from those who view your work and can clearly hear what your images are saying.

  19. edoardo pasero

    is to live in new york the only way to be considered for an italian photograher?

    • MH Duboix

      @edoardo pasero,

      Yes, Edoardo. Everyone knows that you can’t possibly be a good photographer unless you live in New York.

      Even if you are an awful photographer, as long as you live in New York everyone will think you are really good.

  20. While i am excited to see PDN still in business, I am, saddened at the lack of energy, passion, and talent that this years 30 yields.What happened to our craft?
    While a few really stand-out as great image makers, the rest feel like a lazy, bland snapshot. It makes me feel like I have not eaten when I look at some of these images.
    The banal composition, subjects and lighting, the seeming lack of any motivation to actually capture something great.
    Its as if some of these “photographers” just throw a dart at a pile of images and say “oh, that one is cool” when in fact it is so flavorless it starts to blend into the desaturated masses of sub-par images already clogging our visual world. It would be one thing if the horrible photos had great subjects, but alas, no, its just pure horridness on both ends of the lens, like some type of mediocre visual diarrhea.
    I am looking forward to the next generation of image makers and creative shot callers who will actually help bring in a renaissance. If I see one more bland faced, statue pose, tree-bark, blurry, flat lit image of nothing I think I am going to start shooting for a stock agency.

    • scott Rex Ely

      @Blue, If you were a Photo editor or Art Director and your budgets were getting slashed, who would you think could give you more bang for your buck? Someone who looks like they have huge production needs , you know lighting assistants, stylist, heavy post expense, that kinda of stuff? Or maybe someone who is the antithesis of that expense outlay? I think the selection is exactly prescient for the future. Lone operators making intelligent observations, with minimal bling, of any kind, photoshop, alternative delivery and jpg ready. It’s survival and lean wins.

      • @scott Rex Ely,
        I am not even talking about work for money, I am simply talking about the actual images and their (I hate to use this word to describe these photographers) creators.

        Budgets are being slashed because of the irresponsible actions and years of excessive idealism by the print media , budget has nothing to do with quality, skill, or vision and passion for the craft. In fact, its that “bang for your buck attitude that is degrading our industry, demoralizing our talent, and disrespecting all that photography was.

        • scott Rex Ely

          @Blue, I would argue that the supply of talented, yes that’s subjective,photographers to choose from is saturated beyond. And if I was in the position to hire one , why not look for newer talent that isn’t bogged down with layers of production baggage.
          That might literally be a choice that maintains my employment or at least postpones the inevitable. If you want to read a great analysis of contemporary photography that might help you see where this is coming from, might I suggest Charlotte Cotton’s book” The Photograph as Contemporary Art” She explains the idea of sympathies very well and it’s helped me decipher the emerging group of MAF students work that seems to be the “Haute Photographie dejour”.
          Simple, cerebral and lean wins in this market, just my 2 cents.
          Thanks for your reply.

      • Erica Chadwick

        @scott Rex Ely,

        It depends what you are shooting- but art directors do not concept based on a budget. The agency concepts several ideas, pitches one or many more ideas to the client, and picks the concept they think will work best in their target markets. In fact, many times they shoot several spec ads, and then present it to focus groups to see which concept will land with their consumers. I’ve had this conversation before with art directors and overwhelmingly they say they concept for the product / service and the target market and shoot for that. If an ad works and it costs $25,000 more than one that doesn’t work or represent the product well, they will spend the extra $25,0000.

        That idea does not stand up for editorial either. Seems as though photo editors call the photographer they want and there is no shortage of photographers willing to shoot for editorial rates.

        I would have like to have seen more advertising photographers in the mix. While this year’s 30 were a talented group, I do not think they speak to the ad world.

        • scott Rex Ely

          @Erica Chadwick, excuse my obtuseness, I was talking about editorial. I can’t imagine that department assignments aren’t being toned back to help make up for the excesses of a feature or a cover shoot or just simply the first place to start cutting budgets. For me the apparent lack of overt production associations with the participants chosen illustrate that idea.
          Maybe it was just an off year for the Art Center Kids.
          Basically, I was just trying to see if there was a possible reason that would provide Blue an answer to his perception that the talent chosen this year was lacking in craft skills. For some reason I don’t associate new talent with ad work. Just my 2 cents.

  21. someone with influence for critiera on the nomination. Like who? photo editor, director??? help me. I have two that I think would qualify .