Photography: five films every photographer should see

It’s not the technical stuff that inspires me. It’s the moments, the colours and light. The narrative. Films and photography go hand in hand. And it was the moving image that first inspired me to pick up a camera.

The films on this list sparked my interest in photography and in becoming a photographer long before I’d even picked up a camera.

Only one film on my list features a pastely palette, would you believe? And, if nothing else, you get to watch movie trailers for the next ten minutes.

Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas is a road movie directed by Wim Wenders about an amnesiac who sets off with his son to find his long-lost wife. It’s a visually extraordinary film. The settings, desertscapes, motels and never-ending roads, are pure America. The film isn’t cheerful by any stretch of the imagination, but it inspired a sense of wanderlust in me. It also made me want to buy a camera and try to replicate every single frame.

In the Mood for Love

Hold the phone! In the Mood for Love is probably my favourite film of all time … there, I said it. Wong Kar-Wai’s film is about a man and woman who have a sort-of affair after discovering their respective partners are being unfaithful. It’s an outstandingly beautiful and evocative film. The way the camera is positioned through-out the film makes the viewer feel like an eavesdropper, watching and listening. I went to Bangkok and stayed in The Atlanta Hotel where scenes from In the Mood for Love were shot. I spent pretty much my whole time in the city taking pictures of the hotel and trying to make them look like scenes from the film.

Plein Soleil

Plein Soleil is a French-Italian crime drama based on the novel The Talented Mr. Ripley (And much, much better than Matt Damon and Jude Law one). It’s a proper feast for the eyes: sun-drenched Italy, painterly pastels and a handsome cast of old-style movie stars. Oh and it’s the 60s with all the 60s clothes and 60s hair! Plein Soleil will make you want to sail around the Mediterranean with nothing but a suitcase full of old clobber and a vintage filter for your camera.

Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West is an epic western directed by Sergio Leone. It’s an intensely brilliant story and just as brilliant visually. Really cool, stylised shots, dramatic close-ups and rich colours. Once Upon a Time in the West is a photographer’s dream. When I first watched it, I was so overwhelmed by the visuals, the story was sort of lost on me. I should go and watch it again. (I could probably write a whole blog post just about the final scene alone.)

The Story of Film: An Odyssey

Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here. The Story of Film: An Odyssey is more a series than a film, but it’s truly brilliant. It’s a documentary about the history of cinema directed by Mark Cousins, filmed over six years and split into 15 one-hour chapters. Although the above films, and hundreds of others, inspire me no end, The story of Film is my go-to thing when I’m feeling uninspired (or I just want to listen to Mark Cousin’s soothing voice). If you’re a writer, photographer or filmmaker, The Story of Film is a big, fat 15 hours of pure inspiration.

I’d love to know what you think? Which films have inspired you or your work? Stick your suggestions in the comments below đŸ™‚

4 thoughts on “Photography: five films every photographer should see”

  1. Carolyn, so much inspiration in one post! Thank you, thank you, thank you! My weekend sounds promising :). In the mood for love is also my favorite one (+ the soundtrack <3).

    Another film I believe every photographer should watch is undoubtedly, A Single Man – the visuals are mind blowing. I'm so curious to hear your thoughts…

    Finally, all Wes Anderson movies, but particularly, Moonrise Kingdom.;)


    1. Hi Diana. Glad you like the sound of the films. And, yep, In the Mood for Love is outstanding!

    2. Sorry Diana, WordPress only showed me the first part of your reply đŸ™„ Totally with you on A Single Man – the colours!

  2. I’ve never thought about how films inspire my photos… probably because I just don’t watch too many good ones. But books – I think those have made an impact (and more specifically the images that go through my mind as I’m reading.)

    Great post! I’m looking forward to watching a few of these. They look gorgeous.

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