Do you want to take better photos ? Have you reached the point where you are scraping around for something good to watch after so long in lockdown?
I was too and after a dig around I managed to find some great documentaries on some legendary photographers from Netflix and Amazon Prime. Each had a very different approach, great style, something unique and all are very watchable.
I am sharing the ones I have watched so far, along with some cheeky recommendations.
My favourites were Love Cecil and Finding Vivian Maier
Slim Aarons: The High Life
A visual escape from grey skies and every day living .
Slim Aarons spent his life documenting jet setters, movie stars and Royalty.
" He showed life looking even better than it was"
Slim could always be found with his camera among the most beautiful people in the most beautiful of places during the 50's, 60's and 70's. Whilst there he managed to document a bygone era with his signature elegance and style.
You may not know the name, but will certainly recognise the style. His work is referenced today by Designers and Dreamers the world over. Expect glorious colour palettes and oodles of inspiration for small square posts.
Watch with a Martini on the rocks .
A slideshow from heaven.
Cecil's story has a Cinderella like quality with highs, lows and more than a few surprises along the way.
Remembered for being part of "The Bright Young Things", a post-war group of artists and creatives there is a great deal more to his life than that short period revealed.
Cecil broke new ground from the 1920's with ethereal backdrops and clever lighting techniques. From then onwards he remained a highly a sought after photographer until almost the day he died.
He had a talent for taking faces from ordinary to otherworldly, and because of this he became a firm favourite with London Society, eventually becoming Official Photographer to the Royal Family.
Later he moved to Hollywood and keen to expand his work beyond photography became a set and costume designer.
This dazzling documentary reveals much about the man behind the facade through his frank and honest diaries and photographs.
Pour yourself a Pimms and enjoy .
Snapping around Sydney
Follow Gary as he whirls around Sydney sharing his enthusiasm for his subjects and having a great time everywhere he lands. Thriving on variety and a driving need to show the beauty of whoever or whatever appear in front of his lens this film shows us just why Gary is a World Class Photographer.
Starting back in 1976 he has shot famous and infamous characters spanning music, art, film politics and sport as well as feathered friends for his dazzling book 'Bird.' His portfolio includes album covers for Madonna and Paul Simon (Graceland) and advertising campaigns for names like Pepsi , Swatch, Sony and Karl Lagerfield.
Watching Gary at work is an education in the art of connecting with people. We see him in teasing out the shots from his subjects with his playful banter from a Sex Shop, Bikers Chapter, Homeless Charity and a fashion shoot of nude models with flowers and fauna.
Watch with a gin and tonic and an open mind.
Finding Vivian Maier
Prepare to be intrigued .
Vivian was a loner who left a legacy of around 100,000 photographs. A mysterious Nanny with a dark side and many hidden secrets, including her photos which she kept locked away from all eyes apart from her own.
This film is her story told by John Maloof . John is the buyer of a largest collection of her negatives sold due to her not keeping up payments on rented storage space.
Most revealing are the interviews of families Vivian worked for in the 60's and 70's , all who seem to have been left with quite different impressions of her personality.
Vivian Maier is now regraded as one of the 20th Century's most important photographers. Her photographs have been shared around the world causing much controversy and debate as she went to such great lengths to keep her work private during her lifetime .
Enjoy with a glass of wine to celebrate Vivian's French Heritage
Looking for Light - Jane Brown
'Ah there you are'
Watching this feels like a cosy trip to see your Nan as this unassuming legend quietly reminisces with her son about her life and work revealing her secrets of how she took such great portraits.
Jane worked at The Observer for six decades breaking new ground as a female in a male dominated world.
Her long list of subjects includes both The Queen of England and Queen of British Couture, Vivienne Westwood as well as many other famous faces. Jane was renowned for putting her subjects at ease with her minimal equipment and fast working style .Her ideal shoot would be a roll and half of film exposed with just 15mins spent shooting it. With just the right always.
A truly inspiring film of a woman who was quietly one a remarkable photographer of people.
Watch with tea, biscuits and a notebook.
Bill Cunningham New York
Street Photographer , Style Hound
Bill Cunningham had endless energy for taking photographs, an obsession that lasted his lifetime.
He lived a frugal life alone in his apartment packed from floor to ceiling with his photographs with barely room to sleep. He spent little time there as he was so busy working .
People on the street would look for him on his bike wanting to be spotted and land on the pages of The New York Times. He was out everyday taking shots . For Bill it didn't mater who you were. It was all about the colours, the styles, shapes, how they were being worn and spotting trends.
This documentary showcases his work along with his joy and enthusiasm about it .
Enjoy with your glass half full - just like Bill always did.
Elsa Dorfman : The B- Side
"I somehow have this misguided therapeutic idea that it's my role in the universe to make people feel better."
Watching this felt like I was going to visit an old tutor who was letting me into her studio and was sharing her story of how she came to be so sucessful.
Elsa passed away in May 2020 , leaving a legacy of thousands photographs . Many of these shots which were taken with her giant 20 X 24 inch Polaroid Camera. These are pretty unique captures as only 6 of the cameras were ever made. Her pictures are mainly of ordinary folk whoElsa asked to arrive exactly as they were . No pretence or fancy gimmicks, this was her trademark . She then took 2 poses, always keeping the un purchased shot, calling them the B sides.
The film is a fitting tribute to Elsa the unassuming artist.
Enjoy while you knit yourself something cosy .
Further reading and images
I have included some further links on you may enjoy about the Photographers.
If you have any recommendations of interesting photography documentaries please leave a comment or send over to me via email.
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