There Are Really Only 5 Good Movies About Photography

I just read a very interesting blog post by Jason Row entitled “Seven of the Greatest Films of All Time.” Now, if you haven’t already clicked on the link above, you might be surprised to learn that Blow-Up, the 1966 movie directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, didn’t even make the list.

What films did make the list? Well, I hate to spoil the article for you, but they are Kodachrome 25, Ilford XP2, and . . . well, you get the idea. As a photographer, I found the trip down memory lane interesting. I even have rolls or sheets of some of the films Jason Low wrote about in my freezer, although I’ll probably never get around to shooting them.

But Jason’s blog got me thinking—what are the 7 greatest movies about photography of all time? Are there even 7 so-so movies about photography? So I decided to make a list of the ones I could remember. If you have an interest in photography, you really should watch these. Not in any particular order, they are:

  1. Rear Window—The 1954 version starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly (before she became Princess Grace of Monaco). Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Aren’t you glad we don’t have to use flashbulbs anymore? This movie was so good that it was remade in 1998 as Rear Window and in 2007 as Disturbia. However, neither of those movies was about photography or a photographer.
  2. Eyes of Laura Mars—After Chinatown, this is my favorite Faye Dunaway movie. Many people think that the photography of the late Helmut Newton was the inspiration for this movie. It is certainly the only movie I’ve seen that makes photography look really, really glamorous. As far as I know, this is the only movie in the bunch in which a woman is the star photographer. I wonder how many women got into photography because of this movie. And what a young-looking Tommy Lee Jones!
  3. Under Fire—A story about a love triangle between journalists played by Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman, and Joanna Cassidy, but I think Ed Harris and Jean-Louis Trintignant really steal the show in this one. Much of the movie revolves around the staging of a photograph. For an interesting read about the staging of photos by professional press photographers in real life, you might be interested in reading this article in the New York Times, reporting on the disqualification of images in this year’s World Press photo competition. According to a survey cited in the Times, “more than half of the news photographers who replied said they sometimes staged photos — with 12 percent saying they did so at least half the time.” Wag The Dog, anyone?
  4. Blow-Up—For those of you who believe that the CSI computers can run magical algorithms on a photo of the back of someone’s left ear and produce a photograph of the person’s face, this movie will disabuse you of that notion. This dark 1966 classic directed by Michelangelo Antonioni probably got more adolescent teenage boys wanting to be a fashion photographer than any other. I think it was probably the inspiration for the 1981 John Travolta movie Blowout, which has nothing to do with photography.
  5. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty—This 2013 (has it really been out that long?!!!) movie directed by and starring Ben Stiller actually owes very little other than its name to the short story by James Thurber. It has nothing to do with the 1947 movie of the same name starring Danny Kaye. Not a great movie, but it has some beautiful scenery of Iceland and other locations, and it probably reveals more about the soul of a photographer than any of the other movies on this list.

That’s it. There aren’t 7 good movies in which photography is a key element. Just 5. Or are there some that I haven’t thought of?

Thanks for reading, and may you always have good light!