I love all types of documentaries, and I think it’s very important that artists and photographers educate themselves on the past greats and present ones working today. I watch documentaries on photography, fashion, art, and anything else I find interesting. It’s an education coming from a very successful person in that field that everyone can learn from, and I find them to be very inspirational. When I don’t feel inspired or I’m frustrated with things not working out for me, I put on a photography or artist doc and learn about their past struggles and their process that they go through. It’s always a great way to remind myself that everything is going to workout and to create that crazy idea.
1. The Man Who Shot Beautiful Woman
Most people have never heard of him, I never did until I stumbled upon this documentary. Blumenfeld was the highest paid photographer in the world in the 1940s and 1950s, shooting for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His photos were way ahead of his time, so stylized and experimental, I was in awe with what he created because nothing like that existed before him. He had many personal struggles as many great artists do, all which is talked about in this must-see documentary.
2. Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters
I love Gregory’s work. I have his photography book sitting on my coffee table as constant inspiration. This documentary follows his journey on set in small town, U.S.A. as he creates this series of unforgettable images. The impactful and somewhat haunting photos are a one image cinematic masterpiece, each image looks like it was taken out of a movie.
It’s a depiction of small town America with a little bit of fantasy. These photos will stick with you and make you wonder what is actually happening. It’s incredible to see what he goes through to get one image, like taking a street sign out of the cement instead of moving his camera. This is a must-see for inspiration and all the possibilities available to photographers to create the perfect image.
3. The Eye Has To Travel
No, this is not a documentary about photography, but is a documentary about fashion, creativity, and seeing the world as an artist. Diana Vreeland, who lived a very eclectic life, was the editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue from the 1930s to the 1970s.
Sometimes, inspiration comes from other creative people who aren’t photographers, but a different kind of artist. What you take away depends on how open your mind is. I found her so inspirational and a great reminder of that era.
4. Queen Of Paradis
Reine Paradis is a Los Angeles fine art photographer. I was first attracted to her work because I really like neon colors and love blue. This is another photographer that has gone far above to get the shot. In this documentary, Reine travels the country for the perfect location, but looking at the final image, you think she could have just Photoshopped the image together. But that is what I love about it, especially since I don’t love Photoshop. I’m more of an in-camera type of photographer. Of course, the final image is Photoshopped to put it all together, but the location is real, and I think that is where the creativity comes from. It’s really about the artist’s experience and feeling that makes the image work. Since she is her own model, it has to be that way.
5. Slim Aarons: The High Life
If you have not heard of Slim Aarons, Google him now and then rent this documentary. You will see many photographers out there today are copying him, some of them blatantly. You will see what I mean in this great documentary. Now, we all know that pretty much everything has already been done before, so nothing is really that original. Aarons captured the luxury lifestyle and brought people into that world like no one had seen before at that time. His images take you to a place and time we all wish we could experience.
I’m very inspired by Aarons and have no problem admitting that I would like to shoot some images similar to his. A lot of the travel images you see on social media by today’s photographers in Italy and around Europe were first shot by Aarons. Take a look at his work and then look at Instagram photos, and they will look very familiar.
I love Palm Springs. It is my treasured getaway from L.A. So, his Poolside Gossip shot at the famous Kauffman house in the early 1970s is one of my favorite photos and by far his most iconic image. Once you get to know Slim Aarons, you will never look at Instagram lifestyle travel photos the same again.
I hope you take the time to watch one or all of these documentaries. I think they will inspire you, light a fire inside you, or just give you permission to say “yes” to that next crazy idea.