Ever wonder what’s in the photography collections of the world’s foremost collectors? From celebrities, to CEOs, you may be surprised to learn what their personal collections contain. Research for this piece has been collected from biographies of the below photographers and informed by Artnet. Below are the top artists and their most popular photos.

Ansel Adams

Adams is an American photographer best known for landscape photographs of the American West. He is one of the most distinguished photographers in America, and owning one of his pieces is a must for many prominent collectors. Adams’ work is collected by the likes of singer Elton John as well as real estate moguls Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla, who are said to have one of the best private photography collections in the world.

Notable photographs include: Monolith, The Face of Half Dome Yosemite National Park, 1972, and Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941.

Monolith, The Face of Half Dome Yosemite National Park, 1972 © Ansel Adams

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 © Ansel Adams

Man Ray

Ray is an American artist who specializes in fashion photography and portraits. He has exhibited his work across the world since his rise to fame. His avant-garde approach has stood out to collectors such as Robert Fisher, director of Gap Inc., who owns multiple pieces shot by Ray. Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla are also known to be avid collectors of Ray’s work.

Notable photographs include: Glass Tears, 1932 and Aurelien, 1944.

Man Ray - Glass Tears

Glass Tears, 1932 © Man Ray

Aurelien, 1944 © Man Ray

Aurelien, 1944 © Man Ray

Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe was a popular American photographer known for black and white photographs containing subjects, varying from photos of his peers to pictures of celebrities. His unique content quickly caught the attention of many, jumpstarting his lucrative career. His work is popular with some of the biggest collectors of our time, who are willing to spend upwards of $20,000 on a one-of-a-kind picture.

Notable works include: Lady Lisa Lyon, 1983 and Javier, 1985.

Mapplethorpe - Lady Lisa Lyon

Lady Lisa Lyon, 1983 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Mapplethorpe - Javier

Javier, 1985 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Sally Mann

Mann is an American photographer known for photographs of landscapes and children. Her work belongs to permanent collections in museums throughout America, and she was named America’s Best Photographer by Time magazine in 2001. All of this acclaim has garnered the attention of prominent collectors such as actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Some of her popular photographs include: Candy Cigarette, 1989 and At Warm Springs, 1991.

Sally Mann - Candy Cigarette

Candy Cigarette, 1989 © Sally Mann

Sally Mann - Warm Springs

At Warm Springs, 1991 © Sally Mann

Diane Arbus

Arbus was an American photographer known for taking photos of marginal groups, including transgender individuals, circus performers and dwarfs. Millions took notice of her work during her traveling exhibition from 1972-1979. She has now become a staple for collectors such as Robert Fisher.

Notable photos include:  A Young Man in Curlers at Home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C, 1966 and The King and Queen of a Senior Citizen’s Dance, N.Y.C., 1970.

Arbus - Young Man

A Young Man in Curlers at Home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C, 1966 © Diane Arbus

Arbus - King and Queen

The King and Queen of a Senior Citizen’s Dance, N.Y.C., 1970 © Diane Arbus


From this compilation, we can see that emotionally evocative black-and-white photographs are most popular among the aforementioned prominent collectors.