I don’t know about you, but I love photography documentaries.
There’s such a wealth of knowledge you can learn from those who have come before you.
I’ve compiled this list, in no particular order, in an effort to help inspire you as a photographer. And help you to learn more about the craft.
Edward Weston: The Photographer (1948)
There are a couple of quotes that stood out to me:
“Look for the light that will best reveal the nature of the material you’re photographing.”
“There are no rules of composition because each picture presents it own special set of problems, you can use no shortcuts, no formulas; the answer must be worked out each time.”
Edward Weston was one of the best documentary photographers of former times. This photography documentary runs through his life.
W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficultly
This video is one of the best documentaries of the famous WWII documentary photographer, W. Eugene Smith.
Half Past Autumn: The Life and Work of Gordon Parks
Gordon Parks was a true modern renaissance man with achievements in many fields. Among his many accomplishments, he was a groundbreaking documentary photographer.
His images had a deep impact on our culture.
Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye (1999)
This excellent documentary is part of the PBS American Masters series.
Alfred Stieglitz was a street and documentary photographer, and we see this as one of the greatest documentaries of all time.
The Colourful Mr Eggleston
Watch William Eggleston, a documentary photographer at work in his hometown of Memphis.
Ansel Adams – A Documentary Film (2002)
This is the intimate portrait of a great artist and ardent environmentalist.
For Adams, life and art, photography and wilderness, creativity and communication, love and expression, were inextricably connected.
You can find this great photographer documentary right here.
National Geographic Search for the Afghan Girl Pt 1
When Steve McCurry took the picture of a young Afghan girl in a refugee camp he never knew that it was going to become the face of a nation.
It has become exactly that.
In this photography documentary, Steve McCurry searches for the young girl that he photographed that day. From the cover of National Geographic to the hills of Afghanistan.
For documentaries about photographers, you can’t do better than this video here.
National Geographic Live! : The Life of a Photographer
Veteran National Geographic photographer Sam Abell offers a look inside the heart and mind of a master photographer.
The Many Lives of William Klein (2012)
William Klein has lived many lives and is one of the world’s most influential photographers.
He pioneered the art of street photography and created some of the most iconic fashion images of the 20th century.
He also made over twenty films, including the first ever documentary about Muhammad Ali and a brilliant satire of the fashion world, Who Are You Polly Magoo?
The Real Weegee – 1 Hr Documentary
A 1993 photography documentary on Weegee, the famous New York photographer.
He specialised in street life in the 1940s and 50s and crime scenes.
Rivers and Tides – Andy Goldsworthy Documentary (2003)
Here is a photography documentary, showing a portrait of Andy Goldsworthy.
He is an artist whose speciality is ephemeral sculptures made from elements of nature.
Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005)
A Portrait of Robert Frank features intimate interviews with the filmmaker and documentary photographer.
The artist discusses his feelings about how his adopted hometown of New York City has changed over the course of his 50 years living there.
The director showcases Frank’s work. This includes clips of some of his films including Pull My Daisy, Me and My Brother, and the little-seen Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues.
The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith
In 1950 the American photo-journalist W Eugene Smith came to Britain to cover the general election for Life Magazine. But his photographs were never published.
Welsh writer and broadcast Professor Dai Smith goes in search of these lost pictures.
And discovers how the magazine’s opposition to Attlee’s radical Labour government caused them to suppress Smith’s work.
YouTube Playlist: The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith
DUFFY: The Man Who Shot the Sixties
Together with David Bailey and Terence Donovan, Duffy is recognized as one of the innovators of “documentary” photography and fashion photography.
This style revolutionized fashion imagery and furthermore the fashion industry.
So influential were their images that in 1962 the Sunday Times dubbed Duffy, Bailey & Donovan the “Terrible Trio”.
Norman Parkinson further added to their notoriety by naming them “The Black Trinity”.
Together they dominated the London photographic scene, constantly pushing each other to new heights.
Even socially they would spend many hours together talking, living and breathing photography.
In the 1970s DUFFY suddenly disappeared from view and burned all his negatives.
Filmed on the eve of the first-ever exhibition of his work, Duffy agrees to talk about his life, his work and why he made it all go up in flames.
No Worries: Martin Parr
Magnum documentary photographer Martin Parr is found photographing Western Australia.
He was asked by FotoFreo Festival Director Bob Hewitt to photograph three port cities.
Fremantle, Broome and Port Hedland are shown here is a short but sweet photography documentary.
HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: “Pen, Brush & Camera” (1998)
Widely acclaimed as one of history’s most influential figures in the photographic field, Henri Cartier-Bresson gives a revealing interview about his life, work, ideas and beliefs.
Additionally, this coincides with three major London exhibitions.
We find this documentary one of the best documentaries about photographers today.
Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light
This film is about fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon.
This photography documentary is a solid, revelatory film about an artist who revolutionized the very concept of fashion documentary photography.
“To be a photographer,” Avedon says, summing up his philosophy, “you have to nurture the things that most people discard.” Watch the documentary here.
Cindy Sherman – Nobody’s Here But Me (1994)
New York-based artist, Cindy Sherman, is famous for her photographs of women. In these photos, she is not only the documentary photographer but also the subject.
She has contributed her own footage to the programme by recording her studio and herself at work with her Hi-8 video camera.
It reveals a range of unexpected sources from visceral horror to medical catalogues and exploitation movies. Moreover, the programme explores her real interests and enthusiasms.
She shows an intuitive and often humorous approach to her work, and reflects on the themes of her work since the late 1970s.
She talks about her pivotal series known as the `Sex Pictures’. In this series, she addresses the theme of sexuality in the light of AIDS and the arts censorship debate in the United States.
BBC LOMO Documentary
Here is a photography documentary on Lomography. It originally aired on the BBC in 2004, and is different to the other documentaries as it follows a company rather than a documentary photographer.
Here, you will see many images and subjects covered by this documentary photographic movement. Thoroughly enjoyable and one of the best photography documentaries of its time.
Paparazzi Documentary – Next Generation
This documentary shows a group of documentary photographers that we don’t appreciate or respect.
Watch and enjoy at your own risk.