Movies and photography are intimately related, and many films are not only shot by some of the world’s most talented photographers, but are also about photography, photographers and the role of the camera as a way of building narratives, of escaping oppression and even as a weapon! So if you’re keen on your 35mm as well as on your stills, don’t miss our pick of must see movies for photo enthusiasts!
This classic film masterpiece is based on the short story “The Devil’s Drool” by Argentine author Julio Cortázar. The narrative follows famous fashion photographer Thomas as he carries out his daily tasks in the Swinging Sixties London. A detour from his schedule leads him to snap a shot of a mysterious photograph in which he sees something he shouldn’t that obsesses him. Everything from the film’s actual photography and art direction, to the jazzy soundtrack, to the appearances of sixties icons such as Jane Birkin, Vanessa Redgrave and model Veruschka, make this a must-see film for all aspiring photographers and film buffs alike. Plus, Thomas’s character was based on real life photographers including David Bayley, John Cowan,and David Montgomery, Arthur Evans and Don McCullin. In fact, the stills that appear in the film of the park were taken by Don McCullin with the same Nikon-F Camera that the protagonist uses, the fashion photography stills were taken by Arthur Evans and David Montgomery made a cameo as a photographer in the film in which he actually made the fashion shots of the model while he was acting.
If you like fashion photography, then the documentary Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge is also one of our definite picks of must see movies for photo enthusiasts.
Fiction and Faction
The photographer in this film is Anna Cameron, played by Julia Roberts, who captures shots of the different players in a love entanglement which she herself becomes involved in. Her character uses a Leica in the film, and although the photography scenes are all staged and lack some realism in some details, it’s a great film that shows a powerful image of human relationships and vulnerability.
Hitchcock was the great master of suspense, and in this classic film starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, the camera’s voyeuristic nature is of vital importance to the story. The main character, who is an injured photographer that spends his recovery watching his neighbours from the rear window, uses an Exakta with a 400mm lens.
This film with stunning imagery has renowned photographer Diane Arbus as the main character, played by Nicole Kidman. It is only loosely biographical and explores the whimsical and fringe-like characters that inspired the photographer.
Photojournalism and Documentaries
Directed by Oliver Stone, this film about El Salvador’s civil war follows an arrogant and strung out photojournalist on his way into political conflict and an unsuspected love story. The story was co-written by Stone and Rick Boyle, an actual military photo correspondent, so there’s a realistic feel to the film that photo enthusiasts interested in photojournalism will like.
Photography, in this stunning and heart wrenching film directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund about life in the Brazilian favelas, is a way of documenting brutality and violence, but also a way of dreaming a better life. Buscapé (or Rocket), is the character that wants to be a photographer. He was actually cast from the Cidade de Deus favela, and taught photography for the film. One of the subjective shots of the character was in fact taken by him and the camera actually confronts the gun, as a weapon in itself. This idea of the camera as a weapon is also present in Wim Wenders classic The State of Things, another of our picks in our must see movies for photo enthusiasts list.
Also by Wim Wenders, who is a photographer himself, is The Salt of the Earth, a documentary about renowned Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado which is another highly recommended photography film that broaches on social topics.
Following this line of photography as a way of improving life in underprivileged situations and using the camera as a way of defense, is Born into Brothels, a documentary about a photographer that goes to India to photograph prostitutes and ends up teaching photography to the children of these women.