Films on Photography

Finding Vivian Maier

Documentary 2013 NR 83 mins.  When longtime nanny Vivian Maier died in 2009, she left behind thousands of photo negatives that she’d produced over the years. But the now-famous shutterbug’s unique body of work lay in storage until an amateur historian uncovered the trove.  Maier never exhibited or sold her work, and left thousands of prints and undeveloped film.

An Unlikely Weapon:
The Eddie Adams Story

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 26m. A provocative look at photographer Eddie Adams, best known for his photo of the summary execution of a Vietcong guerilla fighter in Saigon in 1968.

War Photographer

Documentary 2001 UR 96 minutes. In this engrossing, Academy Award-nominated documentary, director Christian Frei follows photojournalist James Nachtwey into the world’s combat zones as he fights to capture the struggles of those who face harrowing violence in places such as Kosovo, Indonesia and the West Bank. Nachtwey skirts through murky politics to tell the stories of the suffering in hopes that he can bring attention to their plight, one picture at a time.

Vietnam’s Unseen War:
Pictures from the Other Side

Documentary National Geographic 2002 TV-PG 54m. You haven’t seen everything there is to see about the Vietnam War if you haven’t viewed this sobering documentary from the highly regarded National Geographic team of filmmakers. Complementing the recently released book Another Vietnam, this film captures the war as seen through the eyes (and lenses) of Vietnamese photographers.

The Mexican Suitcase

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 29m. This film tells the story of the recovery of 4,500 negatives taken by photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour during the Spanish Civil War. The film follows the journey of these negatives to Mexico and their recovery 70 years later. This was the first time photographers got close in to record battles as they were happening, as well as the first time civilians were bombed, as in Guernica. (For a drama presenting a similar but fictional account of different valuable historical artifact thought lost but finally rediscovered, see also the film The Red Violin.)

Henri Cartier-Bresson:
The Impassioned Eye
(Henri Cartier-Bresson: Biographie d’un regard)

Documentary 2003 NR 72 minutes. Exploring the life and work of influential French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, this captivating documentary tells the story of a camera-shy photographer whose vision quietly shaped the emerging field of photojournalism. Focusing primarily on the artist’s career from the 1940s to the ’60s, the film features memorable images of Marilyn Monroe, Henri Matisse, the liberation of Paris and the death of Gandhi.

Ansel Adams

Documentary American Experience 2002 NR 100 minutes. The timeless photographs of Ansel Adams have made him one of the most recognized and admired names in art. This intimate look at the man and his work details his position as a staunch environmentalist and how his art reflected his strong worldview. David Ogden Stiers narrates this profile produced for the PBS series “American Experience,” which was directed by Emmy-winning documentarian Ric Burns.

Coming to Light:
Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians

Documentary 2000 NR 1hr 23m. Coming to Light interweaves the story of Curtis’s life with the results of his work, and through it, we see the world he sought to preserve — one man’s incredible effort to capture insights about Native Americans before time washed away important details. The photos alone should bring tears to your eyes. The later days of Edward Curtis reveal a sad conclusion to a life well spent over 30 years in preserving the record of many American tribal groups that were so poorly treated by the United States government. This is just a beautiful heart-rending presentation. Present day Natives are incredibly lucky this man a had burning desire to record what he discovered was vanishing before America’s eyes. This is a wonderful documentary.

Legacy: Native American Photogravures

Documentary 2003 NR 60 minutes. Take an in-depth look at Native American culture through the perspective of Edward S. Curtis’s photogravures of images from native civilization that he made between 1890 and 1920. The music of Mary Youngblood, Joanne Shenandoah and Laurence Laughing provide a spiritual backdrop to the presentation of the images.

The Civil War

Documentary Ken Burns 1990 TV-PG 9 Episodes. This documentary masterpiece from Ken Burns depicts the strategies and action of famous Civil War battles, and relates the stories of generals, field soldiers, politicians, heroes and a beleaguered president. Features the famous photography of Mathew Brady.


Custom Search


Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know