Photography Documentaries

Photography is an art that captures moments and objects. It can also tell a story about people and places. To be an excellent photographer, you need to have a unique approach and be passionate about what you do.

Watching these photography documentaries can help you improve your skills and learn more about iconic photographers.

The Colourful Mr. Eggleston

This is an amazing film about one of photography’s most interesting and influential artists. Director Michael Almereyda manages to capture Eggleston’s essence and his work perfectly. This is a must watch for anyone interested in the world of photography.

Eggleston revolutionized the world of photography by capturing the banal and everyday moments of life turning them into gravity masterpieces. His democratic approach to photographing everything around him and his use of the dye transfer process brought vibrant colors into the art world and challenged traditional concepts of photography.

His compositions often don’t have a clearly defined subject and many people argue that the circles of his photographs are based on the Confederate flag (Eggleston didn’t deny it but maybe tongue in cheek). The casual, offhand snapshot aesthetic of his images give him a bad name sometimes compared to other photographers like Garry Winogrand or Stephen Shore but his works have an depth and intensity to them that go beyond their simple appearance.

The Salt of the Earth

The stunning monochrome images of 71-year-old Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado are the focus of this deeply considered film, co-directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro. It’s an impressive combination of a director with considerable pedigree and a subject who has earned the right to be taken seriously as a photographer (although the word “journalist” seems to miss the mark, implying agitprop that’s more sentimental than On the Waterfront).

This film steers clear of all the frills that can muddy a documentary and lets Salgado’s photos speak for themselves. They show him exploring the world for decades, capturing injustice and human suffering along with the beauty of untouched nature.

He’s witnessed everything from the death camps of World War II to the ravaged landscapes of Central Africa, with each project often flowing into the next based on what he saw around him. These are images that may be difficult to look at but, as the film suggests, they demand to be seen.

Vivian Maier

Following in the footsteps of Searching for Sugar Man, this documentary brings to light the work of an overlooked photographer. Maier first picked up a camera in 1949 and used it as a way to document her travels around Europe and the United States. She then returned to New York City and began to comb the streets of her home town refining her artistic skills. She mainly shot with a Kodak Brownie box camera and later switched to a Rolleiflex, which allowed her to take controlled portraits and fantastic compositions.

When John Maloof stumbled upon Maier’s trove of negatives, it became a worldwide sensation. Finding Vivian Maier is a fascinating look at a photographer who remained anonymous throughout her life but managed to capture enigmatic images that leave you with spine-tingling awe. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in street photography and the art of the medium.

Annie Leibovitz

An enthralling look at a pivotal figure in the history of photography. This documentary is a visual feast and will have you hitting the pause button over and over again.

This documentary explores the career of Annie Leibovitz, one of the most recognizable portrait photographers in the world. Her work has featured a who’s who of rock stars, politicians, and royalty. Leibovitz mastered the art of staged photo shoots and used her selective eye to critique and celebrate celebrity culture in equal measure.

The film also delves into the work of Richard Avedon, a photographer who focused on the juxtaposition of beauty and sorrow. His iconic images of Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn’s son have a haunting quality that’s often lost in celebrity portraiture. It also covers Avedon’s use of light, color, and movement in his photos and how he compared photography to dancing. This documentary is a must-watch for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the world of fashion and portraiture.

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