Can A Photo Documentary Make You A Better Photographer?

In this time we all want to educate ourselves and be able to learn even if the circumstances are not ideal.

And because we have limited ways in doing this – though I think they’re way better than ever in history – I’ve had people ask me over and over again which is my favourite photo documentary I’d highly recommend to watch?

We can educate ourselves in many ways, but as beneficial as an online course can be, so can documentaries be a great source for inspiration and broadening your way of seeing the world.

It’s because you can truly develop your skills, and learn something new from other photographers. I wanted to point out some free documentaries I’ve found helpful on my photography journey.

These are great if you want to deepen the building up of your narrative, find new ways for inspiration and just have a glimpse of the intriguing minds of other photographers.

I find it more interesting to dive into the contemporary side of photography; how can you better tell a story ? What are the elements you should be aware of when trying new methods in photography?

Documentaries can be a great way to learn in your own pace.

Start where you feel you’re lacking knowledge, and then find literature and documentaries to help you move towards a more meaningful way of photographing.

Because like I’ve said before and will keep saying; your photography will be flat unless you dive into the methodologies and the reasons behind your work. And whats a better way than to see how others have done it?

Contemporary Art Photography: Human Altered Landscape (’54:45)

This one-hour talk reviews the exciting work of documentary-style contemporary photographers who have focused their practice on our changing American and global landscape.

Our point of departure will be the 1975/76 watershed exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape which featured works by Robert Adams, Stephen Shore and Hilla and Bernd Becher amongst others.

We will also explore the incredible work of Edward Burtynsky, Robert Polidori, Richard Misrach, and several others

Everybody Street – Full Movie (‘1:25)

EVERYBODY STREET, directed by Cheryl Dunn (“102 Minutes that Changed America”), highlights the lives and work of New York’s iconic street photographers, including Bruce Davidson, Mary Ellen Mark, Elliott Erwitt, Ricky Powell and Jamel Shabazz — and the unparalleled city that has inspired them for decades.

This beautifully shot documentary pays tribute to the spirit of street photography through a cinematic exploration of New York City, and captures the instinctive rush, singular perseverance and the immediate danger customary to these artists.

Can a photo documentary make you a better photographer? Definitely. Learning how others have done it can work as a fundamental step in your own practice.

The Many Lives of William Klein (2012) (’58:53)

William Klein has lived many lives. One of the world’s most influential photographers, he pioneered the art of street photography and created some of the most iconic fashion images of the 20th century.

He also made over twenty films, including the first ever documentary about Muhammad Ali and a brilliant satire of the fashion world, Who Are You Polly Magoo?

With a major Tate Modern exhibition currently celebrating his work, imagine… spends time with William Klein to discover the irrepressible, charismatic personality behind a remarkable creative life.

The next one is not a photo documentary per se, but Joel Meyerowitz explains beautifully the practice of photography.

JOEL MEYEROWITZ (english version) Les Rencontres d’Arles 2017 (‘1:28)

“Photographers are athletes of the decisive moment. Among the human assets a photographer needs to cultivate are boldness and innocence, quick reflexes, as well as trust, precision, grace, and the willingness to fail again and again.

However, the spicy taste of the occasional success is so satisfying that it erases any memory of the moments that got away. Enough so that one is ready to go out again in the knowledge that the world will repeat itself forever, in renewed variations.” – Joel Meyerowitz

Mark Cohen – Photographer (’06:21)

The German Film and Media Rating Board primarily uses this highest rating to assess the film’s particularly informative value.

In this case the film has succeeded in documenting the specific individuality of fundamental representatives of modern American photography since the early 1950s. This refers to both their methods of working and personal means of expression, as well as to their overall attitude toward photo-graphy.

The common denominators among them are the immediate way in which they capture everyday reality and their efforts to allow people and things to speak for themselves.

For some, the matter at hand stands exclusively in the foreground; others strive to make reality transparent for subjects that common sense tells us is intangible.

But do search for information yourself too; we are living in an age where everything you want to learn can be found for free. The question is, how badly do you really want it ? Your input will determine what is available for you and how you consume it.

If you liked this article, you will LOVE 7 Unique Types Of Portrait Photography To Inspire You

How To Better Build A Photo Series

How To Start A Photography Business With No Experience – Simple Guide

Leave a comment!