1. MANFUACTURED LANDSCAPES (2006)
The film involves the photographs and videos of photographer and visual artist Ed Burtynsky’s trip through landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human activity, captured with Super-16mm film. Most of the photographs featured in the film are pieces that are exhibited all over the world and are taken with a “large format field camera on large 4×5-inch sheet film and developed into high-resolution, large-dimension prints (of approximately 50×60 inches). While some would some call the work beautiful, his main goal was to challenge notions while raising questions about the interplay of environmental ethics and aesthetics. The footage was compiled from a trip to China where Burtynsky visited factories which Western society has come to rely on for most of its appliances, including a factory that produces most of the world’s supply of clothes irons, which is one kilometer in length and employs 23,000 workers. The film also features the Three Gorges Dam, which, along with being the largest dam in the world, has uprooted more than one million people and flooded 13 cities, 140 towns and 1350 villages since the beginning of its construction in 1994. Unlike most documentaries, there is very little commentary, which allows viewers to take in the images and try to make sense of what they’re seeing, while at the same time the film “tries to shift our consciousness about the world and the way we live in it”.
2. WAR PHOTOGRAPHER (2001)
For over 20 years, photojournalist James Nachtwey has been visiting war-torn countries such as Kosovo and Rwanda, capturing the destruction on film. While merely an observer, he still feels the immediate effects of the ravaged lands. The stark images are contrasted by Nachtwey’s calm reserve as he fends off accusations of exploiting tragedy. Director Christian Frei attaches a small video camera to Nachtwey’s still camera for a bird’s-eye view of destruction, pain, and ultimately, hope.
3. Edward Henry Weston (March 24, 1886 – January 1, 1958)
Edwar Henry Weston was a 20th-century American photographer. He has been called “one of the most innovative and influential American photographers and “one of the masters of 20th century photography. Over the course of his 40 year career Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of subjects, including landscapes, still lifes, nudes, portraits, genre scenes and even whimsical parodies. It is said that he developed a “quintessentially American, and specially Californian, approach to modern photography because of his focus on the people and places of the American West.
4. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye (2003)
Heinz Bütler interviews Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) late in life. Cartier-Bresson pulls out photographs, comments briefly, and holds them up to Bütler’s camera. A few others share observations, including Isabelle Huppert, Arthur Miller, and Josef Koudelka. Cartier-Bresson talks about his travels, including Mexico in the 1930s, imprisonment during World War II, being with Gandhi moments before his assassination, and returning to sketching late in life. He talks about becoming and being a photographer, about composition, and about some of his secrets to capture the moment.
5. Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (2008)
Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (2006-2008) is an excellent, rewarding documentary written and directed by Barbara Leibovitz; it previously aired as part of the PBS American Masters series. This one bears repeat viewing, because behind the lustre of star power, there’s a lot to absorb about the Leibovitz family milieu, Annie’s intense relationship with Susan Sontag (1933-2004), and interesting tips about photography and music. Annie Leibovitz has not just found herself in the right place at the right time — she deploys herself, positions and places herself, finds her way into the action with great initiative and skill.
6. America and Lewis Hine (1984)
Documentary about early 20th-century photographer Lewis Hine, who helped to expose grim working conditions in American factories and mines, especially the abuse and exploitation of children by their employers. Later, he became the official photographer for the construction of the Empire State Building.
7. Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks (2000)
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.
8. Strand, Under the Dark Cloth (1989)
Paul Strand (1890-1976) remains a curiously shrouded and paradoxical figure. While passionately devoted to humanity, he was happiest in the isolation of the darkroom.
9. Ralph Gibson: Photographer/Book Artist (2002)
For more than forty years, Ralph Gibson has served as one of the few truly independent forces within the field of photography.
His unique graphic style — stark, erotic, chaste, allusive, surreal — is as unmistakable as it is influential. His many-published books have shown generations of photographers in the U.S. and Europe that the bound-printed page can be as powerful a strategy for artistic success as the gallery exhibition.
In this film biography, Gibson is very much the star of his own life as he discusses his colorful childhood in Los Angeles as an extra in Hollywood movies, his stints in the U.S. Navy, his time as an assistant to Dorothea Lange, as well as his lean, wayward years in New York.
10. Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge (1989)
A camera crew follows Helmut Newton, the fashion and ad photographer whose images of tall, blond, big-breasted women are part of the iconography of twentieth-century erotic fantasy. He’s on the go from L.A., to Paris, to Monte-Carlo, to Berlin, where he was a youth until he escaped from the Nazis in 1936. We see him on shoots, interviewing models, and discussing his work. It’s not art and it’s not good taste, he tells students. We meet June, his Australian-born wife, whom he married in 1948. Three actresses talk about working with Newton and how posing is different from acting. A heart attack in 1973 helps Newton re-focus, resulting in more personal photographic projects.
There are still so many amazing documentaries made on Photographer’s. You are free to comment the name of such movies you can think of.