Documentary Films On Photography And The Greats

One of the best ways to learn a craft is to follow the greats in the field, imitating them, referencing their thought and work process, knowing their backgrounds and character. This article gathers four documentary films that acts as an intimate portrait and a peek into the lives of four great photographers: Saul Leiter, Vivian Maier, Elliott Erwitt and Steve McCurry.


Saul Leiter could have been praised as the great pioneer of colour photography early in his life and bring in big bucks for his work, but he was never driven by the lure of success. Instead, he preferred to drink coffee and photograph in his own way, living his life slow and free from social expectations. This amassed an archive of beautiful work that is now piled high in his New York apartment.

In No Great Hurry is a rare interview with Saul Leiter due to his nature to refuse become famous. In this intimate and personal film, In No Great Hurry provides a glimpse of Saul’s daily life in Manhattan. It follows Saul as he deals with the triple burden of cleaning an apartment full of memories, becoming world famous in the 80's and fending off a pesky film maker. By filmmaker Tomas Leach, this documentary revealed Saul’s character and a quirkiness that refuses to conform to the world he lived in.




Vivian Maier had earned a crust as a nanny to the well-heeled, dragging her “charges” out on long walks while she took candid shots on the streets, and also dabbled in film-making. Her humble job allowed her to roam, and perhaps her low status gave her the power of invisibility, the most important skill for any street photographer.

This intriguing documentary shuttles from New York to France to Chicago as it traces the life story of the late Vivian Maier, a career nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs has earned her a posthumous reputation as one of America’s most accomplished and insightful street photographers.




Elliott Erwitt has spent his entire adult life taking photographs, of presidents, popes and movie stars, as well as regular people and their pets. His life’s work is a testament to the power of the image. Famous of being witty and having a sense of humour, his work is iconic in world culture while his life is largely unknown.

Elliott Erwitt — Silence Sounds Good is a quiet, intimate portrait of an artist at work. It follows NYC-based photographer’s travels to Cuba for his latest exhibition. who values companionship of all kinds above idle conversation. “I’m serious about not being serious,” declares Elliott Erwitt, while being interviewed for this documentary. Pithy phrases like this are peppered throughout the film and reveals the Magnum photographer’s penchant for wit and wry observation – as well as ambiguity.




If you don’t know the name Steve McCurry, you’d probably know his famous photograph ‘Afghan Girl’. In a career spanning four decades, photographer Steve McCurry has braved hardship and personal risks to create some of the most enduring images of our time. For the first time, an intimate portrait reveals his life journey from a troubled childhood through a 40-year career in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones and the longing for human connection at the core of his art.

Acclaimed French director Denis Delestrac, who has known Steve McCurry for two decades, uncovers the photographer’s private universe layer by layer. Observing him while at work in places such as India and Papua New Guinea, in his New York city studio or at home with his wife and newborn child in Arizona, we will meet the man behind the images in close-up.

Being the newest film in this list, this documentary touches on Steve’s photography philosophy, his thought and work processes, as well as the ‘Photoshop scandal’.



Browse photobooks of Saul Leiter, Vivian Maier, Elliott Erwitt and Steve McCurry here.

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