It’s tough being stuck indoors. With not much social activity and nothing from the outer world to inspire you, we have to turn to our screens a lot of times to get our creativity moving again. Movies can be inspiring both personally and for our artistry. Below are some of my favorite movies and documentaries for photographers.
Do you have a favorite? Let me know what it is (and why) in the comments!
Movies about photography
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: This will definitely get your itch to travel going again, as Ben Stiller travels across Iceland to find a last roll of film for Life magazine. There is some amazing outdoor scenery present here — it’s some of the best I’ve ever seen in a movie. The plot up against this backdrop just makes for an out-of-this-world experience. Available to stream for FX subscribers.
Nightcrawler: You won’t see this on many people’s lists, but this Jake Gyllenhaal movie is definitely up there for me. It follows a photojournalist as he covers crime in Los Angeles, eventually getting a bit too close to the crime. Definitely one of my favorite hidden gems, and one that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Available for rental or purchase through various digital outlets.
Blow Up: A classic from the 60s, David Hemmings stars a photographer who has his life encompassed by fashion, pop music, marijuana and more. As he develops film negatives, he stumbles upon a murder. As he examines his photographs, he starts to put the pieces of the crime together. Available for rental or purchase through various digital outlets.
Documentaries about photography
The Salt of the Earth (2014): Photographer Sebastião Salgado is profiled in this documentary, as he travels the world, capturing humans, animals and more among everyday landscapes. The photographs are simply breathtaking; each one tells a different, unique story. Available for rental or purchase through various digital outlets.
Tales By Light: This series unites exploration and photography together, following the story of photographers as they capture the world’s landscapes. The scenes here are simply breathtaking, and you get a real feel for how each photographer works. Available on Netflix.
Everybody Street: Cheryl Dunn is profiled as she captures the art behind New York street photography, with fellow photographers Bruce Davidson, Mary Ellen Mark, Jill Freedman and more. The documentary highlights the passion of each photographer as they capture moments. Available on Amazon Prime.
Movies to inspire your photography
Nebraska: It’s rare you see movies produced as black-and-white films today. “Nebraska” has some great actors in it — Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb and Bob Odenkirk to name a few — and encompasses the journey of an aging father who believes he’s won a million-dollar sweepstakes. It’s a journey through the country (Montana to Nebraska) but also of a father-son relationship. The ability to capture daily life through black and white should be inspirational to street photographers and those interested in the nostalgic, everywhere. Available on Kanopy.
Joker: Disturbing yes, but artfully amazing. The cinematography in “Joker” has an old school vibe. And in the streets of New York City, there’s nothing better. The scenes where Joker is coming down the stairs (located in the Bronx, at West 167th Street) are simply breathtaking. And the treatment makes for a capture that is unlike anything else I’ve seen in recent memory. Available for rental or purchase through various digital outlets.
La La Land: This movie continues to inspire me as an artist. The wide views of Los Angeles and the gorgeous colors present … every scene brings in something new and remarkable to appreciate. The plot is pretty good too, and even won almost won Best Picture a few years back. Available to stream for USA Network subscribers.