Saturday, July 02, 2016

Photographer Documentaries

I don't know about other people, but I enjoy a good documentary film about something that interests me, and even  better, one about photography -- especially about a photographer.  Due to Amazon Prime and Netflix, we have a huge array of choices about what to watch, and more importantly, we can watch when we have the time.  Being able to watch on my iPad while developing film is a nice option, thanks to streaming video services, as well as YouTube.

Thankfully, YouTube has some amazing videos that are available, and this link will take you to a really good start on 20 that you should watch.  With some searching, you will obviously find more, but it's a place to start.

A good photography documentary inspires me and educates me.   For those that don't like to read books (that does not apply to me), a video is a good way to learn about the work of some of the more famous (and infamous) photographers.  In this age of short attention span, the YouTube videos are definitely a plus.  I tell young photographers that one way to improve their work is to study the work of others -- go to galleries and museums; read books, study monographs of other's work.  Videos also fit in there, too. Not everyone is able to visit a museum or access good books in a library.  Here again, is where a streaming video can be of great educational benefit.   Petapixel has a HUGE list of photography videos that you should check out.

Last night I was looking through Amazon Prime's listing, and I found Ted Forbes' videos from his Artist's Series on the Art of Photography.  Seeing them on my TV was even better than on my iPad, and they are short, well-produced and fascinating.

Here are a few of my more recent favorites:

Finding Vivian Maier. - Yes, her photographs are fantastic--but her story is a strange one, and we'll never know all the details of her life.  This enigmatic woman captivates us with her photographs, but how I wish she had the will to show her work while she was alive.  While a lot has happened since this video was produced, it's very entertaining and well-done.  I first saw it in the theater in Royal Oak,MI,  and it was an emotional experience.

What Remains - This is a very personal documentary that puts the viewer in the room with Sally Mann and her family.  Her recent autobiography is fantastic to read, but this documentary certainly captures her persona, her work, and her philosophy.  I have no desire to go to a body farm, but Mann is the embodiment of the committed artist.   A film that is sure to stir the creative process, if not inspire someone.

Bill Cunningham New York - With the recent passing of this iconic street/fashion photographer, I am sure this will get a lot of views.  It is an entirely charming documentary about Bill Cunningham, photographer of fashion in NY and Paris -- as if fashion photography was done by a photojournalist.  Cunningham was ethical and hard-working, minimalist, and humane.  This video intrudes into his life and I am so glad that it was made. He was unique. You may not care about fashion, but it's all around us, and this movie is more than about fashion - it's about a life.

Manufactured Landscapes - A film about the photographer Edward Burtynsky, who searches various places in the world for the effects of industrial processes on the earth and on humanity.  Visually stunning, at times depressing, but always engaging.  I think this movie should be shown in business schools as well as environmental education.  The movie will make you think about that next trip to the superstore.

Strand - Under The Darkcloth - I thought I knew a fair amount about Paul Strand (1890-1976), but it was mostly about his early work.  After he moved to France in 1949 - we see less of him represented, but he was a prolific film-maker and photographer.  This documentary is engaging and gives us a better understanding of the man and his photography.  The movie was produced in 1989, and I highly recommend it.


I wish I had access to documentaries like these while growing up. I think they would have been influential in my choice of a career. Not that I regret being an entomologist at all, but it never occurred to me that photography was a profession when I was a kid.  All the more reason to be a mentor. You never know what the outcome will be, but you may make a huge difference to someone.

















1 comment:

Christopher Smith said...

Thank you for this lots of info here and thanks for the link to the Huge list
of photography videos now I just got to find some the time to watch some of them. The last documentary I saw was on the BBC about Saul Leiter which was very good.

Christopher.