Fashion photography is an artform of its own. From high-end glamor and intricate set-preparation, to off-the-cuff street photography, there’s something there for everyone, and a photographer for every taste.
The fashion photography documentary sub-genre is luckily a prolific one, partly thanks to TV-produced features which tackle the subject with a range of pre-existing video footage, interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage of the artists at work. Many of the artform’s pioneers have been honored with a documentary about their work, allowing the public greater insight into the usually private people behind the lense.
From Helmut Newton to Mario Testino, check out these seven fashion photography documentaries, and in case you missed it, here are seven fashion documentaries you should watch.
Bill Cunningham: New York (2010)
Director: Richard Press
The late, great Bill Cunningham was considered the grandfather of modern street style photography, and his nearly 40 year tenure at the New York Times is proof of his ability to capture ordinary (and some not-so-ordinary) people looking sharp on the streets of Manhattan. This documentary reveals great insight into his work, and features commentary from notable New Yorkers, including Anna Wintour, who declares “We all get dressed for Bill.”
BBC Omnibus: Mario Testino (2002)
Produced by: BBC
Created by the BBC to coincide with Mario Testino’s exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London that year, this slightly-under-one-hour documentary looks into the Peruvian photographer’s notable style. Featuring on-set footage and commentary from various industry faces, the doc entails what inspired Testino’s glamorous style.
Dreamgirls: The Photographs of Guy Bourdin (1996)
Director: Nicola Roberts
It’s no secret that Guy Bourdin was a troubled man, however there’s no denying his incredible body of work and contributions to fashion photography. This one-hour documentary features interviews with notable faces, including model Jerry Hall and fellow provocateur photographer Helmut Newton, and aims to shed some light on the slightly maniacal photographer.
Annie Liebovitz: Life Through a Lens (2008)
Director: Barbara Leibovitz
Where Mario Testino gives us celebrities at their most glamorous, Annie Liebovitz gives us celebrities at their most raw and naked. Sometimes literally naked, but rather baring their souls. Her style is unmistakeable, and there’s a lot more than simple aesthetics that dictate her photographic style. This documentary explores the naked truths behind Annie Liebovitz’s work.
Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge (1989)
Director: Adrian Maben
Much like the other photographers on this list, Helmut Newton’s work is instantly recognizable as his own, and helped define a certain style within the world of fashion photography. One of the earlier documentaries to cover the work of a fashion photographer, it helped set the precedent for the genre, featuring video footage of Newton, interviews with industry names, and behind-the-scenes action of the artist at work.
Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light (1995)
Director: Helen Whitney
Another TV-produced documentary, this 90-minute feature was part of the American Masters series, and delved into the work of yet another pioneer in fashion photography, Richard Avedon. Looking at both his commercial and personal work, some of which would later form the book In the American West, Avedon’s portraits are famed for defining America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the latter half of the 20th century.
Duffy: The Man Who Shot the ’60s (2010)
Director: Linda Brusasco
English photographer Brian Duffy, alongside photographers David Bailey and Terence Donovan (known collectively as the “Terrible Trio”) were innovators of “documentary” fashion photography, and helped define London’s fashion photography during the decade. They were also dubbed “The Black Trinity”, and together they pushed each other in their work, ultimately revolutionizing fashion images forever.