The lens capturing the lens. Through the lens of the film camera, we see a world that has been captured, frozen and immortalised by the lens of the photographic camera. The artistic medium of photography has been captured by its younger, moving and arguably more dynamic sibling— film, throughout the ages.
Films that revolve around the world of photography are imperative to the artistic craft and success of both mediums. Films such as ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ unlock some of the most exquisite hidden treasures of photography and delight film watchers with the wonder, artistry and stunning beauty of photography; on the other hand, photographic images such as publicity stills remained crucial to the success and promotion of films and their stars through much of the 20th century.
A ‘ying and yang’ of two equally important and dominant art forms, the following list will explore the world of photography as captured on film.
10. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye (2003)
Heinz Butler’s 2003 documentary offers an insightful look into the life of perhaps the greatest photo-journalist of all time. Deemed the “father of modern photojournalism”, the documentary explores the life of an elusive man who’s incredibly vast body of work can only be matched by few. Ironically for a camera-shy man who avoided being photographed, Cartier-Bresson produced some of the most defining images in history.
Butler’s film depicts the fascinating life of a brilliant artist who captured some of the most timeless events, greatest historical figures and most breathtakingly powerful scenes of the twentieth century.
9. Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
Richard Press’ 2012 documentary film explores the life of one of the greatest street-fashion photographers of all time— Bill Cunningham. Gliding down the streets of New York on his Schwinn, Bill captures the pulsating heart of New York street culture— its eccentric, bold and one-of-a-kind fashion scene and has done so for decades.
Capturing the essence of the decade, time and place he is photographing, Bill humbly chronicles fashion trends from the gritty back streets of the city to swanky high-society balls & catwalks with no pretensions albeit immense flair and style.
The film takes a look into not only the immensely diverse body of work but also of the workings of an eccentric man whose living, breathing infatuation with photography and fashion has documented a history of self-expression that will live on.
8. Proof (1991)
Moorhouse’s 1991 comedy-drama Proof tells the story of a misanthropic man shrouded in both literal and figurative darkness. Australian actor Hugo Weaving brilliantly plays a blind photographer named Martin whose childhood has left him bitterly distrustful of the world; traumatised by the notion that his mother once deceived him— allegedly lying about the scenes outside of his window, Martin’s childhood paves the course for the rest of his adult life.
Martin begins to obsessively photograph the passing world and has people describe the images he has taken to validate the veritable truths of the world; this compulsion— stemming from his childhood trauma.
What begins as a method of proving the reality of the world around him initiates a profound friendship of which ultimately ignites a story of unrequited love, jealousy and emotional solace. A beautifully crafted tale of trust, love and reality that is as thought-provoking as it is heart-wrenching; a hidden Australian gem.
7. Funny Face (1957)
Stanley Donen’s 1957 classic is a sugary, romantic musical delight set amid Paris’ twinkling lights, nostalgic streets, iconic sights and glamorous catwalks. Icon of dance Fred Astaire plays Dick Avery— a world famous fashion photographer who dreams only of photographing models who can “think as well as they look”.
Conveniently stumbling into Jo Stockton— a timid bookstore assistant played by the iridescent Audrey Hepburn, Avery is entranced by her scepticism, intelligence, beauty and most of all— her spirit. Jetting of from the concrete jungle of Manhattan to the whimsical pearl of Europe, together Avery and Jo are entwined in a story of fashion, ambition. photography and romance amid the city of lights.
6. Finding Vivian Maier (2013)
Maloof and Siskel’s 2013 documentary film explores the life of Vivian Maier— an eccentric and mysterious nanny whose recently discovered body of work has posthumously secured her a place as one of the greatest photographers of all time.
With the recent unearthing of over 100,000 of Maier’s photographs; having been hidden gathering dust for decades in massive trunks, storage lockers and scattered throughout her previous residences, Vivian’s hauntingly beautiful street photography of 20th century American street scenes reveal an immense body of artistic accomplishment and talent from a woman whose life was as strange and incredible as her photographs.
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