Stanley Greene was born in New York in 1949, and as a teenager was a member of the Black Panthers and an anti-Vietnam War activist. He studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and at Image Works in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Interested in the Social Landscape Art Movement, he moved to San Francisco, where from 1975 to 1980, he attended the San Francisco Art Institute, and co-founded SF Camerawork, an exhibition space for avant-garde photography.
An encounter with W. Eugene Smith turned Greene's energies toward photojournalism. Greene began photographing for magazines, and worked as temporary staff photographer for New York Newsday. In 1986, Greene moved to Paris; by chance, he was on hand to record the fall of the Berlin Wall, and he quickly became a much-sought-after photojournalist. Greene has been the Moscow correspondent for the French daily Libération since 1993; he has also worked closely with The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, and various publications including the San Francisco Examiner, Rolling Stone, Paris-Match, Time, Stern, Fortune, and Le Nouvel Observateur.
In recent years he has been based in Europe, covering major political events for a multitude of publications. Greene won two awards in the World Press Photo Contest for his photographs from inside the Russian Parliament building during the 1993 Moscow putsch. He has photographed wars and poverty in Africa, the former Soviet Union, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East. He also published the photo book Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 (Trolley). Greene won the W. Eugene Smith Award in 2004.