60 Photography Related Documentary Films

October 24, 2012 /Photography News/ 50+ photography related documentaries. Listed in no particular order. What's your favorite? Share your pick and be sure to mention any that is missing from the list in the comments section below.

1. My Asian Heart (2009) 
This documentary follows award winning photojournalist Philip Blenkinsop on assignment to China, setting up his next exhibition. Capturing Nepal during the pro democracy uprisings. And reflecting on the plight of the Hmong “survivors” who continue to haunt him. In Philip’s world there’s constant tension between his artistic commitments and the drive to report on world conflicts. 

A six part series on the history of genius following its development from its very first transitory moments to modern digital techniques.

3. Ashes and Snow (2005)
Ashes and Snow by Canadian artist Gregory Colbert is an installation of photographic artworks, films, and a novel in letters that travels in the Nomadic Museum, a temporary structure built exclusively to house the exhibition. The work explores the shared poetic sensibilities of human beings and animals. 

4. Through the Lens (1995) 
Through the Lens takes some of the most riveting adventure photographs of the last decade and tells the story behind the images. 

A film about the fearless photojournalists who documented strikes, demonstrations, protests etc during the Chilean military regime of Augusto Pinochet, sometimes risking their very lives.

6. Baraka (1992) 
A stunning collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life, the majority of which involve humanity's many religions. 

7. Koyaanisqatsi (1982) 
A movie with no conventional plot: merely a collection of expertly photographed scenes. Subject matter has a highly environmental theme. 

8. War Photographer (2001)  
Documentary about war photographer James Nachtwey. As well as telling the story of an iconic man in the field of war photography, the film addresses the broader scope of ideas common to all those involved in war journalism, as well as the issues that they cover.

This documentary studies the motivations of journalists dedicated enough to risk their lives for a story.

10. The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge (2010)
A BBC portrait of the pioneering photographer, forefather of cinema, showman and murderer Eadweard Muybridge.

A profile of the noted and extraordinarily cheerful veteran New York City fashion photographer. 

12. Looking Back at You (1993) 
Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado documents the lives of the working class around the world. 

Two documentary filmmakers chronicle their time in Sonagchi, Calcutta and the relationships they developed with children of prostitutes who work the city's notorious red light district.

A film about the fine line between art, ethnography, and exploitation, The True Meaning of Pictures explores the work of photographer Shelby Lee Adams. 

An in depth study of Adams's life and work.

A documentary that exposes the genocide raging in Darfur, Sudan as seen through the eyes of a former U.S. marine who returns home to make the story public. 

A documentary film which explores the meaning of the photographs taken by U.S. military police at the Abu Ghraib prison in late 2003, the content of which revealed the torture and abuse of its prisoners by U.S. soldiers and subsequently resulted in a public scandal.

18. An Unlikely Weapon (2008) 
The weapon in question is not a firearm but a camera: from the 1950s through the early 21st century, photojournalist Eddie Adams caught a series of indelible images through his lens that dramatically reshaped the way in which the general public perceived the world. In 1968, in 1/500th of a second Eddie Adams photographed a Saigon police chief, General Nygoc Loan, shooting a Vietcong guerrilla point black. Some say that photograph ended the Vietnam war. The photo brought Eddie fame and a Pulitzer, but Eddie was haunted by the man he had vilified. 

An intimate portrait of the photographer and the complex, enigmatic pictures she takes of her children.

An intimate look at the life and career of Gordon Parks a true Renaissance man who has excelled as a photographer, novelist, journalist, poet, musician and filmmaker. 

This video weaves together a sort of history of Magnum Photos, one of the world's premier photo agencies, with a fresh look at where new Magnum photographers are taking the group.

A fascinating insight into one of the greatest photographers who ever lived. 

The movie offers a candid viewpoint on life and work behind the famous facade of the White House.

The film involves the photographs and videos of visual artist Ed Burtynsky's trip through landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human activity.

Profiling American artist Paul Strand, whose experimental work in film and photography pioneered an avant-garde style in the medium.

26. Teenage Paparazzo (2010)
A documentary that examines the relationship between celebrity and society. 

In the Travels to the Edge series, photographer Art Wolfe shares his knowledge about the world around him and explores different places and cultures.

Susan Meiselas, the award-winning photojournalist who covered the Revolution for The New York Times and London Times,  returns to Nicaragua a decade later to track down the people -- guerrilas, Socistas and bystanders -- pictured in her original photographs. 

A documentary about the kidnapping of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo and fixer Ajmal Naqshbandi and the events leading to the release of the former and the murder of the latter by the Taliban.

A documentary on the relationship between curator Sam Wagstaff, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and musician/poet Patti Smith. 

31. Smash His Camera (2010)
A film centering on the life and work of Ron Galella that examines the nature and effect of paparazzi. 

From childhood to adulthood this is the complete story of one man’s passionate quest to fulfill his dream of winning the Pulitzer Prize. It is a quest that will cost him more than he could ever know and one that will take him to the very brink of death, time and time again. 

33. Arakimentari (2004) 
A look at the life and work of controversial Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki and his impact on Japanese culture. 

An insider's view of jazz and life in 20th-century America, as told by bassist and photographer Milt Hinton and his fellow musicians.

Tierney Gearon’s photographs have been called manipulative, disturbingly ambiguous, even perverse; the London police demanded that the Saatchi Gallery which first showed the offending photos of her young children take the pictures down. The documentary follows Tierney over the course of three years as she assembles her new body of work, a project that promises to be even more provocative than the photos that originally made her career.

The film reveals the deep connection between William Eggleston's personality and his work, and also reveals his parallel commitments as a musician, draftsman and videographer.

37. Reporters (1981)
This documentary traces the unrewarding, cynical and difficult world of photographers.

"While some photography enthusiasts will be drawn to this film like a rain-coated pervert to an unsniffed bicycle seat, it has much to offer a general audience interested in a rare cultural snapshot of Hollywood and the fashion industry circa the late ‘80s." (George Russell, PopMatters) 

Dramatic and intimate stories trace photography's role as a recorder of public events, family historian, vehicle for artistic expression, and tool for influencing public opinion.

40. Naked States (2000) 
Photographer Spencer Tunick travels the U.S. in search of volunteers to pose nude for his outlaw photo-shoots, all of them done out in public and often without legal permits.

41. Thinking XXX (2004) 
A documentary about the process photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders went through to create his book XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits.

The work of photographer Diane Arbus as explained by her daughter, friends, critics, and in her own words as recorded in her journals. 

This film explores the artistry and innovation of 3 blind photographers whose luminous work can help us see the world through their eyes.

44. People Love Photos (2009) 
A film about photography and family life, sexuality and love. It looks at different human role models, whether in sexual relationships or in family life. 

An introduction to the photography and thinking of Sebastiao Salgado.

Examines the historical implications of influential photographs that have appeared in "Life" magazine.

Tells the story of Johnny Nunez and his escape from humble upbringings in Brooklyn to become one of today’s most prominent hip hop celebrity photographers. 

A raw, unflinching journey into the world of war photojournalism - where many live by the credo that where there are no images, history is forgotten. 

The film features the personal vision and the struggles experienced by photographers Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, and Jack Delano, who created some of the most iconic images in documentary history, and captured, for the first time, a complete picture of their countrymen in the context of a national identity.

Light in the West rediscovers this empire through the eyes (and camera lenses) of the extraordinary men who were the first photographers to venture west.

A documentary on 3 of Australia's best photographers.

Returning to the scene of the action, each photographer describes, in a gripping first-hand account, how they took their prize-winning photographs.

At age 89, Rogovin determined that he had more to say about the lives of the people in his photographs, and he wrote poems about some of his most meaningful images. These photo/poems were woven into this 20 min film.

The stories behind some of the most famous rock 'n' roll photographs of all time.

A documentary about one of the most important photography curators of all time.

Art Sinsabaugh made his artistic breakthrough in the early 1960s with panoramic landscapes of the midwest that were unprecedented in both form and subject matter. 

The secrets of the National Geographic photographers - the dangers they face, and the lives they lead for the love of their craft. 

After devoting his art to picture desolated landscapes and borderline realities, Antoine D'Agata (Magnum photographer) focuses his art on his intimate human relations. His latest work concentrates on body and flesh, in a narrow room. This film catches the hidden part of his art making; his choice of living at edges and living sex as extreme vitalism.

59. Dorthea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (2014)
The documentary directed by Lange's granddaughter Dyanna Taylor uses family journals, photos and film footage, interviews and vérité sequences of Lange at her Bay Area home studio, circa 1962-1965, to convey a full picture of the photographer and her approach to art as a philosophy of life.

60. Henri Cartier-Bresson: Pen, Brush and Camera (1998)
A 50-minute documentary from 1998 about the life and work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, the legendary photographer who’s considered to be the father of photojournalism.

You may also like: 50+ Photography Related Movies


  1. Unknown says

    What a great list!

    Anonymous says

    Include this title

    "They Turned Our Desert Into Fire"

    believe the site is a bit behind it has won numberous awards and still see it on broadcast.
    the distributor is

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