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5 Films About Photography to Stream This Weekend

by Lauren Hoffman
photo & video

Summer days are great for getting outdoors and taking pictures, but if you’re looking for a way to stay inside, cool off, and get inspired all at the same time, Netflix has you covered.

Whether you’re taking notes for an upcoming project, or you’re simply out to watch and learn from some talented individuals, these films all add an impressive layer of creativity on top of the fundamentals of photography.

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Here are five great films about fine art photography you can stream right now.

A quick note: regrettably, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, perhaps the all-time greatest film about photographers (and certainly the most chilling) isn’t available to stream, but if you’ve never seen it, add it to your by-mail queue today.

1.) Bill Cunningham New York

This 2011 documentary follows Bill Cunningham who, at 80 years old, still pedals through New York on a bike to photograph what people are wearing. You’ll get an inside look at how Bill manages to get a stunning shot every time, in high-, low-, and no-brow situations. Best of all? Bill’s outlook on life is every bit as inspiring as the images he captures.

Watch it if…you’re a Humans of New York fan. Bill Cunningham’s been photographing New York’s boldest and brightest since before HoNY’s Brandon Stanton was born.

2.) Moving Art: Flowers

This short documentary will inspire you to look at — and capture — nature in a whole new way. Although its focus is on cinematography, the principles of artistry, lighting, and composition at work in Louie Schwartzberg’s filmmaking will intrigue still photographers as well.

Watch it if…you’re in the mood for something fast. At twenty-five minutes, it’s perfect to watch over iced coffee on a hot summer morning (and then take our Art of Flower Photography Class with Kathleen Clemons).

3.) Black White + Grey

With a predominant focus on the 1970s and 80s, this film explores the work of and relationship between innovative museum curator Sam Wagstaff and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Their collaboration, accomplishments, and work ethic will inspire you to connect more intensely with other photographers and fearlessly capture the images you want — even if they’re shocking.

Watch it if…you like a touch of close, complicated relationships alongside your ground-breaking photography. Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe, and Wagstaff’s is one for the ages.

4.) National Geographic: Through the Lens

With a focus on extreme photography, this documentary is an insider’s look at the creative process of National Geographic’s finest photographers. This film is a crash course in getting the shot you need, even when there’s just a split-second window to capture it. The bold risk taking these photographers endure might make you cringe a little, but it will also empower you to be more bold in your own photography.

Watch it if…you’re not just into looking at jaw-dropping images — you’re equally interested in the behind-the-scenes work it took to capture them.

5.) An American Journey: In Robert Frank’s Footsteps

In 1958, Swiss photographer crisscrossed America, capturing images of his newly-adopted home that would later be collected in one of the 20th century’s most highly praised photography books. Fifty years later, French director Philippe Seclier retraces his steps and to capture film and images of his own. Over 15,000 miles, he tracks down Frank’s subjects, rethinks the Beat culture Frank was inspired by, and explores all the American landscape as to offer.

Watch it if…you’re prepared to get inspired to jump in the car and capture classic American images of your own. Road trip!

Once you’re all caught up on your mandatory photography films, take your hobby to the next level with our classes on Photography Fundamentals, Adobe Photoshop, and Landscape Photography.


It’s here! Photo Week 2017 is around the corner with 40 incredible classes and 20 award winning instructors. Learn More here


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Lauren Hoffman

Lauren Hoffman lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. By day, she's a freelance writer and editor; by night, she's at work completing a book-length non-fiction project, Up High Down Low.