I have a simple test to determine whether someone has ascended to this level:
Google their name. If your results reveal pages upon pages of articles, galleries representing them, various exhibits and publications while not actually leading you to their own website... BINGO!
i agree once more.
but i want to state also that digital leaded some ( many ) of the formerly great film photographers to speed up their working process and to shoot now 50 or 100 projects a year when shooting formerly 10 or 20. this is not leading in all cases to the same quality the same people had archived with film.
meanwhile some of these shooters can be found in every second issue of ar or similar magazines this does not mean that they are "world leading" in terms of quality, although in terms of quantity they might be. this sums up to be commercially a very good biz for these guys but lets see where the ball runs in longer terms.
the cards have been mixed new in the last years and i believe there is MUCH to expect from the new generation of photographers who grew up with digital and did not simply replace the film working style with digital to speed up the process of shooting or to reduce shooting costs, but not creating a similar interesting aesthetic as the same people had done formerly using film.
its very interesting: in general the budgets went down as a result from a kind of price dumping also from some of the names tes claimed in this second class of "world leaders ", interestingly the number of photographers who have been straight enough to hold on with an own style of shooting, which is not only dictated by an "good enough" view of the things mixed with an "as cheap and fast enough" shooting process, decreased by a big number, which leads to the strange effect that, although the competion became much stronger in general in this architecture biz, there seem to be more space on the top than it was some years ago. the top architect is here not only the biggest name and the biggest building, its also an architect who is willing to work close together with a photographer and who is willed to pay for this, and not the ones ( which are many of the famous ones ) who buy as cheap as possible from an increasing number of photographers the images which may fit best the daily needs of a project, but not creating a comprehensive portfolio.
the individuality of these photowork often gets lost and i.m.o. this has a lot of to do with making good business but nothing with "top class" in the sense of aesthetic which might surpass the daily publication or archival needs.
in result this could be even a good situation for young shooters, as long they have the strong energy and wish to go to the top ....