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5 Street Photographer Documentaries

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Poster image for Elliott Erwitt documentary, Silence Sounds Good

It has been 16 long years since I first watched War Photographer, Christian Frei’s magnificent ride-along portrait of James Nachtwey. As with any truly great documentary, it taught me much, inspired me, and left a mark that I continue to think about to this day.

It also sparked in me a love for documentary films of both photography and photographers. As such, and after my recent list of street-photography-adjacent videos, I share 5 of my favourite street-photographer documentaries.

Elliott Erwitt: Silence Sounds Good (2019)

An early and enduring influence on my photography has been the great Elliott Erwitt. Even though I missed the Warsaw showing of this movie back in 2021, director Adriana López Sanfeliu was kind enough to send me the film to review for 35mmc. This is a beautiful, intimate portrait of the nonagenarian.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye (2003)

One of the first documentaries watched after picking up a camera, this lovely retrospective of Cartier-Bresson’s life and career also introduced me to the gigue from Bach’s French Suite no. 5.

Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable (2018)

Produced by the American Masters series for PBS, this is the latest film I’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have often set Winogrand aside in favour of Frank, Kalvar, Erwitt, et al, however, this film is intoxicating and, though not an uncomplicated figure – particularly when it comes to women, this is a journey through work that feels like an exhilarating carnival ride.

Imagine: The Many Lives of William Klein (2012)

His major exhibition opened at the Tate Modern in London in 2012, and subsequently, the BBC’s Imagine program spent time with the 84 year old photographer to explore his work and his “many lives“. A fascinating look at the now sadly departed Klein.

Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (2015)

I’m not alone, not even esoteric, in my love and worship of Robert Frank‘s street photography, nevertheless, he is one of my idols, so to speak. This 2015 documentary skates quickly through his early photography career and spends more time with his film-making, however, it allows for a little more time spent with him in all his cantankerous glory.

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