Some of these photographers are well known in the industry, and others are climbing the ladder of recognition, but all of them have something incredible to offer the genre of fantasy photography.
Not long ago I put out a request: I wanted people to tell me who their favorite fantasy photographers were. I received so many names that I had to write them all down and search through them just to narrow the list down. Originally, I had planned on sharing what I thought were the top ten, but so many of the recommended photographers blew me away with their skill and vision that I had to rethink my approach to this article. Instead of the top ten, you’re going to get a genre breakdown with some of the most incredible photographers from each group.
For the purpose of this article, I define fantasy photography as photography that includes fantastical or surreal elements with the goal of transporting viewers out of the “regular world.” Just like any genre, fantasy photography has sub-genres within it. Not all of these sub-genres have a proper name, since the whole concept is rather nebulous and blurs several boundaries, but they can be pretty easily described.
These first photographers fall within what may be the most common subgenre in fantasy photography, at least the one that comprised the most recommendations, which I will call “ethereal women.” While each photographer has their own voice, their main body of work consists of ethereally beautiful women in extravagant costumes and extraordinary locations. The resulting images often look like they’ve been taken from the pages of a fairy tale storybook.
Kotak is a photographer at the epitome of this part of the genre, with work that is meticulously styled and often sits solidly in the realm of fine art.
Liu’s work is fulled with fantastical drama and otherworldly beauty, often looking almost as much like an illustration as a photograph.
Famous for the Wonderland series honoring her late mother, Mitchell’s work is a tour de force that is highly personal, with each photo crafted by her from the concept to the elaborate costumes and props.
Walsh has the world of underwater fantasy on lock, with dreamlike photographs that are a feast for the eyes.
Hannah Dare Walker
Walker isn’t just a photographer, but also a designer who creates mind bending costumes by hand, often requiring months of intensive work for pieces that are works of art in their own right.
Millen’s work mixes portrait photography with digital art and falls somewhere between conceptual/surreal and ethereal. Her work in distinct, striking, and highly artistic.
These photographers all have work that hints at a broader story or concept, but still contain fantastical or surreal elements, often including digital manipulation to assist in telling the story.
Master conceptual photographer, Shaden needs no introduction from me.
Known for fantastical, imaginative composites, this list wouldn't be complete without Robyn.
Elaborate sets, unexpected elements, complex concepts, Jerzyk’s work is a tour de force.
In a word: otherworldly.
Benjamin Von Wong
Von Wong specializes in larger than life projects aimed at making a positive impact in the world.
Work that is imaginative and narrative in nature with a commercial appeal.
Known for her Whimsy Waifs, Robitaille’s signature is highly illustrative and original.
Almost understated compared to some of the other entries, but enthralling. Like a dream that could have been real.
From 3D to photography, Bjorke has her hand in imagery that ranges from one end of the genre to the other but always feels highly narrative.
I don’t want to say these photographers are out to scare you, although some of them definitely are, but on the whole these images are much darker in tone if not always in subject matter. Some of them deal with difficult emotional issues, such as loneliness or abandonment, and others simply showcase the macabre in compelling way.
Emotive and masterfully edited, these are works of art. Even when they give you the creeps.
Sometimes stark, sometimes disturbing, Limmen’s work is always compelling.
Clever, often painful to look at, McKenney’s work rides the line between nightmarish and though provoking.
Chad Michael Ward
These photographers are well known in the fashion industry, but they always include an unexpected element of whimsy or surrealism that gives their work a decided fantasy edge.
These Cosplay photographers refuse to settle for boring backgrounds or flat lighting. They go the extra mile to create fantastical worlds for their subjects to inhabit.
Fantasy photography is my favorite flavor of photography because the only boundaries are the photographers imagination and skill. Looking at a fantasy photograph is a reminder that each of us live within the realm of our imaginations, and in that land anything is possible.
Who are your favorite fantasy photographers?