7 Photography Docos That’ll Make You Want to Pick up the Camera

Hey you.

Yes, you! The spiritless milksop who’s currently drowsing in an impotent, uncreative hole! When was the last time you picked up that dust ladened camera and created some magic? It looks to me like your uninspired arse needs some stimulation. Now take off your pants. Kidding, geez! Get your mind out of the proverbial gutter and up out of that rut with this list of seven photography documentaries that’ll make you want to pick up the camera. Sometimes you need to be aroused to be motivated. So, wake up, watch these films and then go get em’ paper tiger! In no particular order…

Everybody Street

Ahh, New York, New York—if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. In the award-winning Everybody Street, director Cheryl Dunn chronicles the lives and bodies of work of NYC’s most iconic and interesting street photographers who have collectively spent nine decades capturing the city’s teeming streets and the characters that inhabit them. A blend of 16mm, stills, and archival footage, Dunn has created an incredible film that captures the alluring, inquisitive, and at time dangerous, nature of street photography in an incomparable city. After watching Everybody Street don’t be surprised if you find yourself skulking street corners with your camera at the ready.

Duffy – The Man Who Shot the Sixties

A key player in the ‘Swinging Sixties’—a decade of debonair fashion and celebrity chic—was Brian Duffy, an iconic photographer who became as famous as the models and celebrities he shot. Perhaps most well known for his collaboration with David Bowie, Duffy shot five sessions with The Man Who Fell to Earth, including the iconic Aladdin Sane cover. Duffy abruptly quit photography at the peak of his career when he attempted to burn his life’s work in a backyard bonfire. Duffy’s legacy is revived in this BBC documentary through his son Chris, who unearthed what was left of the burnt archives to share his story with the world. The Man Who Shot The Sixties is a glimpse not only into the life of Brian Duffy, but of a time where London was at the forefront of art and culture, and photographers like Duffy were the purveyors of cool.

Don’t Blink: Robert Frank

Robert Frank redefined photography when he released his restless, gritty portrayal of America in the 1950’s, aptly titled The Americans. The revolutionary body of work garnered worldwide attention, including that of the Rolling Stones. The Stones invited Frank to help with the cover art of Exile on Main Street and to film their 1972 US tour promoting said album. The result was the infamous, ‘unreleased’ Rolling Stones tour documentary Cocksucker Blues; an incriminating portrait of the world’s biggest band and their roadcrew engaging in hedonistic acts of sex and drug use. The Stones had the film shelved; it came under a court order which forbade it from being shown, unless Frank was physically present. The Robert Frank documentary, Don’t Blink, is a fascinating journey into the images and words of one of the most influential, provocative and interesting artists of the 20th century. It also features a killer fucking soundtrack (including the Stones!)

Bill Cunningham New York

“We all get dressed for Bill,” says Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, referring to the late, great don of street style photography, Bill Cunningham. The renowned photographer dedicated his life to chronicling fashion trends and upper echelon soirées for his columns in the New York Times: “On the Street” and “Evening Hours.” Often seen cycling around Manhattan, Cunningham was genuinely fascinated by what people chose to wear, preferring to focus on clothing as personal expression, as opposed to pure celebrity worship. Bill Cunningham New York is an intricate, funny, and often poignant portrait of a man who was so dedicated to his art, that he basically slept on top of it.


“Did I have the right to take that man’s picture of his murder?” says acclaimed war photographer Don McCullin in the opening minutes of his retrospective. And so goes the moral dilemmas of a man who has dedicated his life to photographing the atrocities and horrors of war. Knighted last year for his services to photography, McCullin has wagered his life countless times in the interest of documenting the most harrowing moments of battle and human suffering. But why? Is it the rush of being on the front line? Is it noble to report what would otherwise only be endured by those engulfed in these conflicts? 2012 documentary McCullin is a raw portrait of a man who has exposed the horrors of war without sensationalising his work or exploiting his subjects, in the process becoming one of the greatest photojournalists of the 20th century. (Oscar-nominee Tom Hardy has also signed on to play Don McCullin in the feature film based on his autobiography, Unreasonable Behavior.)

Smash His Camera

Regarded by Harper’s Bazaar as “the most controversial paparazzo of all time,” Ron Galella was the original intrusive celebrity shooter, whose brazen pap-tactics and ambush approach bent celebs out of shape for decades. None more so than former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who dragged Galella to court (twice) and eventually had him banned from taking photos of her. Or Marlon Brando, who resented Galella’s unrelenting attention so much that he decided to book him into a dental practitioner by way of a clenched fist. A fascinating retrospect of the in-your-face pap and his relentless pursuit of the stars, Smash His Camera also raises issues on the right to privacy, freedom of the press and the ever-expanding vortex of celebrity worship.

Finding Vivian Maier

This is the incredibly bizarre story of the late Vivian Maier, a deeply private nanny who secretly took over 100,000 photographs and hid the negatives in storage. The cache was discovered decades later when purchased at a thrift store auction; thus revealing one of the greatest street photographers of the 20th century and forever changing the life of the man who unearthed the haul. Director John Maloof, the lucky son of a bitch who purchased the trunk concealing Maier’s body of work, digs deep into the mysterious life of the unassuming artist who was obsessed with hiding her true self and her passion from the world.

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