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Fascinating movies about photography

Posted on April 28, 2020 - By Sandrine Hermand-Grisel
Fascinating movies about photography
Fascinating movies about photography
If you've been inside for days on end amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be getting a little saddened by missing all the great exhibitions you had planned to see in a museum or a gallery near you. But in a time of crisis we need to stick together and do what's best, not only for us, but for the greater good by protecting others.

Photographers and photography lovers have been impacted financially and morally like anyone else. You can learn more about what some of them are experiencing in our article What impact has the Coronavirus Pandemic on Photographers?

But despite not being able to get out just yet, let's not forget that there are other ways to discover new portfolios, improve our photography skills and knowledge like by reading books, browsing our favorite websites (including All About Photo!), watch fictions and documentaries about photography.

Discovering photography documentaries about the great masters can open totally new horizons.
Watching fictions connected to the profession or loosely related to it can be relaxing and entertaining.

With this in mind, we have selected a list of films and documentaries that you should watch. Enjoy!



Blow-Up (1966) by Michanlangelo Antonioni
The narrative covers a day in the life of a glamorous fashion photographer, Thomas (played by David Hemmings and inspired by the life of David Bailey), who takes pictures of a murder by accident...


Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006) by Steven Shainberg
Turning her back on her wealthy, established family, Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) falls in love with Lionel Sweeney (Robert Downey Jr.), an enigmatic mentor who introduces Arbus to the marginalized people who help her become one of the most revered photographers of the twentieth century.

Bang Bang Club

The Bang Bang Club (2010) by Steven Silver
A drama based on the true-life experiences of four combat photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa.


Life (2015) by Anton Corbijn
This movie chronicles the story behind the 1955 LIFE Magazine photo thread by Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) of then-rising star, James Dean (Dane DeHaan), and gives us an inside look at some of Hollywood's most iconic images and into the life of a gifted, but troubled man.


Kodachrome (2017) by Mark Raso
Set during the final days of the admired photo development system known as Kodachrome, a son (Jason Sudeikis) and his dying father (Ed Harris) hit the road in order to reach the Kansas photo lab before it closes its doors for good. Based on a true story published in the New York Times article in 2010 For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas


Mapplethorpe (2018) by Ondi Timoner
A look at the life of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (Matt Smith) from his rise to fame in the 1970s to his untimely death in 1989.



McCullin (2012) by David Morris & Jacqui Morris
McCullin speaks candidly about his three-decade career covering wars and humanitarian disasters on virtually every continent and the photographs that often defined historic moments.

War Photographer

War Photographer (2001) by Christian Frei
Documentary about war photographer James Nachtwey, considered by many the greatest war photographer ever.

The Salt of the Earth

The Salt of the Earth (2014) by Win Wenders & Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
The life and work of photographer Sebastião Salgado, who has spent forty years documenting deprived societies in hidden corners of the world.

Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier (2013) by John Maloof & Charlie Siskel
A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one of the most accomplished street photographers.

The Times of Bill Cunningham

The Times of Bill Cunningham (2018) by Mark Bozek
A feature film documentary about legendary NY Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

War Photographer

War Photographer (2019) by Boris B. Bertram
The life of photographer Jan Grarup who struggles to balance life in war zones with being the father of four.

Generation Wealth

Generation Wealth (2018) by Laura Greenfield
A documentary that investigates the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen.

Everybody Street

Everybody Street (2013) by Cheryl Dunn
EVERYBODY STREET, directed by Cheryl Dunn, illuminates the lives and work of New York's iconic street photographers - including Bruce Davidson, Mary Ellen Mark, Elliott Erwitt, Ricky Powell and Jamel Shabazz - and the incomparable city that has inspired them for decades. Shot by renowned photographer Cheryl Dunn on both black and white 16mm film and color HD, the documentary pays tribute to the spirit of street photography through a cinematic exploration of New York City, and captures the visceral rush, singular perseverance and at times immediate danger customary to these artists.

Search for the Afghan Girl

Search for the Afghan Girl (2003) by Lawrence Cumbo
In January a team from National Geographic Television & Film's EXPLORER brought McCurry to Pakistan to search for the girl with green eyes.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye (2003) by Heinz Butler
Heinz Bütler interviews Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) late in life.

Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film (2002) by Ric Burns
An in depth study of Adams's life and work.

Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable (2018) by Sasha Waters Freyer
A documentary about an important American still photographer who captured New York City in the 1960s (his work there is said to have influenced the TV show Mad Men) and later the West in Texas and Los Angeles.

Don't Blink - Robert Frank

Don't Blink - Robert Frank (2015) by Laura Israel
Robert Frank revolutionized photography and independent film. He documented the Beats, Welsh coal miners, Peruvian Indians, The Stones, London bankers, and the Americans. This is the bumpy ride, revealed with unblinking honesty by the reclusive artist himself.

Koudelka Shooting Holy Land

Koudelka Shooting Holy Land (2015) by Gilad Baram
A unique insight into the creative genius of Czech photographer Josef Koudelka. Director Baram follows Koudelka on his journey through Israel and Palestine as he searches for the elusive moment in which a photograph emerges.


Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016) by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
An examination of the life and work of the revered and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.


Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (2007) by James Crump
A documentary on the relationship between curator Sam Wagstaff, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and musician/poet Patti Smith.

What Remains

What Remains (2005) by Steven Cantor
A look at the creative process of celebrated photographer Sally Mann.

Saul Leiter

In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter (2013) by Tomas Leach
Saul Leiter could have been lauded as the great the pioneer of color photography, but was never driven by the lure of success. Instead he preferred to drink coffee and photograph in his own way, amassing an archive of beautiful work that is now piled high in his New York apartment. An intimate and personal film, In No Great Hurry follows Saul as he deals with the triple burden of clearing an apartment full of memories, becoming world famous in his 80s and fending off a pesky filmmaker.

Gregory Crewdson

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (2012) by Ben Shapiro
A documentary shot over a decade with unprecedented access to photographer Gregory Crewdson that bares the artist's process.

Bill Cunningham: New York

Bill Cunningham: New York (2010) by Richard Press
A profile of the noted and extraordinarily cheerful veteran New York City fashion photographer.

Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975) by Thom Andersen
A documentary film about the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge.

Smash His Camera

Smash His Camera (2010) by Leon Gast
A film centering on the life and work of Ron Galella that examines the nature and effect of paparazzi.

Through a Lens Darkly

Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014)
by Thomas Allen Harris
A film that explores how African American communities have used the camera as a tool for social change from the invention of photography to the present. This epic tale poetically moves between the present and the past, through contemporary photographers and artists whose images and stories seek to reconcile legacies of pride and shame while giving voice to images long suppressed, forgotten, and hidden from sight.

The Many Lives of William Klein

The Many Lives of William Klein (2012)
by Richard Bright

American Masters Documentaries on PBS
- Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (2007) by Barbara Leibovitz - Richard Avedon: Light and Dark 1996
- Robert Capa; In Love and War 2006
- André Kertesz of the Cities 1999
- Dorothea Lange: Grav a Hunk of Lightning 2014
- Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde 2005
- W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficult 2002
- Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye 2001

Documentary available on YouTube
Henri Cartier Bresson - Pen, Brush & Camera by Patricia Wheatley
Street Photography: Documentary, Joel Meyerowitz
War Photographer in Sudan - Veronique de Viguerie by HBO
The Life of a Photograph by National Geographic - Sam Abell
Annie Leibovitz 1993 documentary
Mary Ellen Mark: Portraits & Portrayals
Behind the Story: Cambodia Burning by Sean Gallagher

More Fictions with photographers has main characters
Under Fire (1983) by Roger Spottiswoode
Three journalists (Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman, Joanna Cassidy) in a romantic triangle are involved in political intrigue during the last days of the corrupt Somozoa regime in Nicaragua before it falls to a popular revolution in 1979.

Pecker (1998) by John Waters
A talented young photographer (Edward Furlong), who enjoys snapping photos of his satirical, perverted Baltimore neighborhood and his wacky family, gets dragged into a world of pretentious artists from New York City and finds newfound fame.

Harrison's Flowers (2000) by Elie Chouraqui
When a Newsweek photojournalist disappears in war-torn Yugoslavia, his wife travels to Europe to find him.

One Hour Photo (2002) by Mark Romanek
A mentally unstable photo developer (Robin Williams) targets a middle-class family after his obsession with them becomes more sick and disturbing than any of them could imagine.

Shutter (2004) by Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
A young photographer and his girlfriend discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after a tragic accident. They soon learn that you can not escape your past.

Everlasting Moments (2008) by Jan Troell
In a time of social change and unrest, war and poverty, a young working class woman (Maria Heiskanen), Maria, wins a camera in a lottery. The decision to keep it alters her whole life.

The Midnight Meat Train (2008) by Ryûhei Kitamura
A photographer's (Bradley Cooper) obsessive pursuit of dark subject matter leads him into the path of a serial killer who stalks late night commuters, ultimately butchering them in the most gruesome ways imaginable.

Harrison's Flowers (2000) by Elie Chouraqui
When a Newsweek photojournalist disappears in war-torn Yugoslavia, his wife travels to Europe to find him.

Rear Window (1954) by Alfred Hitchcock
A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

High Art (1998) by Lisa Cholodenko
A young female intern at a small magazine company becomes involved with a drug-addicted lesbian photographer, both of whom seek to exploit each other for their respective careers, while slowly falling in love with each other.

Photograph (2019) by Ritesh Batra
A struggling street photographer in Mumbai, pressured to marry by his grandmother, convinces a shy stranger to pose as his fiancée. The pair develop a connection that transforms them in ways they could not expect.

1,000 Times Good Night (2013) by Erik Poppe
Rebecca is one of the world's top war photographers. She must weather a major emotional storm when her husband refuses to put up with her dangerous life any longer.

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) by Irvin Kershner
A famous fashion photographer develops a disturbing ability to see through the eyes of a killer.

The Public Eye (1992) by Howard Franklin
Story of a 1940s photographer who specializes in crime and is not getting involved until this time.

My Favorite Brunette (1947) by Elliott Nugent
Shortly before his execution on the death row in San Quentin, amateur sleuth and baby photographer Ronnie Jackson, tells reporters how he got there.

City of God (2002) by Fernando Meirelles
In the slums of Rio, two kids' paths diverge as one struggles to become a photographer and the other a kingpin.

Calendar (1993) by Atom Egoyan
A photographer and his wife take photographs of Armenian churches for use in a calendar. Their driver, a local resident, expounds on the history of the churches while the wife translates. The photographer becomes jealous of his wife's bonding with the driver.

Woman in Chains (1968) by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stanislas Hassler blazes the development of modern art in his gallery, packed with works of surprising shapes, colours and textures, and where exhibitions turn into media events. Gilbert Moreau is one of the artists whose sculptures are on display in the gallery. His wife, Josée, is intrigued by the stern Stanislas, who devotes his free time to photography in an apartment that highlights his sophisticated artistic tastes. But besides enlarged pictures of calligraphic samples, Stanislas is amassing a collection of photographs that reveal a disturbed character.

Triage (2009) by Danis Tanovic
The wife of a photojournalist sets out to discover why he came home from a recent assignment without his colleague.

Delirious (2006) by Tom DiCillo
An offbeat drama focused on a homeless youth, a pop music siren and a member of the paparazzi.

Uzak (2002) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
After his wife leaves him, a photographer has an existential crisis and tries to cope with his cousin's visit.

The Killing Fields (1984) by Roland Joffé
A journalist is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot's bloody 'Year Zero' cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million 'undesirable' civilians.

Proof (1991) Jocelyn Moorhouse
The life of a blind photographer who is looked after by a housekeeper is disrupted by the arrival of an agreeable restaurant worker.

L'important c'est d'aimer (1975) by Andrzej Zulawski
Servais Mont, a photographer, meets Nadine Chevalier who earns her money starring in cheap soft-core movies. Trying to help her, he borrows the money from the loan sharks to finance the theatrical production of 'Richard III' and gives Nadine a part. Nadine is torn apart between Servais, for whom she is falling in love, and her husband Jacques, to whom she has moral obligations.

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) by Peter Weir
A young Australian reporter tries to navigate the political turmoil of Indonesia during the rule of President Sukarno with the help of a diminutive photographer.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) by Ben Stiller
Walter Mitty works for Life magazine in the photo film department. To escape his daily life, he invents adventures in which he is the hero. Everything changes on his birthday when he receives a film from Sean O'Connell, a world renowned photographer. In a message, Sean recommends that he uses the negative 25 for the next cover of Life, but it cannot be found. This is followed by a trip around the world to find the photographer and the mysterious missing negative film.
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