9 Black-and-White Movies Photographers Must Watch

by . December 23rd, 2014

As a photographer, I find that there are just so many things to keep us inspired. From magazines to music videos—even with billboards—the world is literally littered with inspiration. Movies, however, are a different kind of inspiration. Not only do movies provide entertainment, some films even provide inspiration beyond visual sense. Recently, many photographers have recreated or remixed iconic movies for their photos; some have added a bit of twist to really make them their own. One of such example is Antoine Tempé and Omar Victor Diop’s [re-]Mixing Hollywood series. Another great example is the work of Annie Leibvotiz’

While there are so many great movies to choose from, we have decided to narrow down on a particular theme to keep it short and sweet. In this post, we are mainly focusing on black-and-white movies that every photographer should watch. These movies are not only great to watch, they are also amazing sources of insight and inspiration. Stripping off colors removes many distractions thus gives focus to the subject.

1. The Night of the Hunter 

What makes this film good?
The camerawork for this Charles Laughton movie was done by Stanley Cortez. Cortez was inspired and influenced by the silent films of D.W. Griffith. The amazing use of light and shadow is seen throughout the film.

Our favorite photographic scene?
One of our many favorites is the part wherein Harry Powell and Rachel Cooper (played by Lillian Gish) sings the hymn Leaning. The silhouette of Rachel Cooper juxtaposed with the waiting Powell is just magnificent at it perfectly shows the conflict between good and evil.



2. Citizen Kane

What makes this film good?
Considered as one of the best films ever made, Citizen Kane is an essential must-see movie classic for everyone to see.

Our favorite photographic scene?
Citizen Kane was considered as an innovative film back in its time. Our favorite scene is when Charles Foster Kane slowly walks into a hall of mirrors, distraught and exhausted.



3. The Passion of Joan of Arc

What makes this film good?
This classic silent film which features Maria Falconetti as Joan of Arc follows her trial and her inevitable demise. Half of the movie is almost in close ups which makes gives the film an intimate interaction with the audience

Our favorite photographic scene?
The movie itself is essentially like a book of emotions. One of our favorites scenes is when Joan was taunted and mocked with a straw crown and an arrow by 3 men.



4. Schindlers List

What makes this film good?
Who can ever forget Spielberg’s masterpiece about the Holocaust? Janusz Kamiński certainly did an amazing job doing the cinematography.

Our favorite photographic scene?
One scene we cannot forget is when Oskar Schindler is at the bar having a cigarette and observing people.



5. Control

What makes this film good?
Control is a biopic of Joy Division’s late vocalist, Ian Curtis. This is a debut film for photographer Anton Corjbin who has photographed the band during Corjbin’s early years.

Our favorite photographic scene?
The crisp contrasts and grainy texture of the film perfectly accompanies the dark and melancholic mood of the film. The part wherein they perform the song Candidate is a wonderful watch specially if you are shooting live music in small venues.



6. Raging Bull

What makes this film good?
Apart from being one of Martin Scorsese masterpieces, Raging Bull is a Rogert Ebert favorite and if that doesn’t mean a lot to you then we don’t know what else is.

Our favorite photographic scene?
Fans of Raging Bull can never forget the scene where everything slowed down in Jake La Motta’s (played by a young Robert De Niro) point of view before Sugar Ray Robinson rain down punches to La Motta’s face.



7. Pi

What makes this film good?
Darren Aronofsky’s infamous thriller is not just a complete descent to madness but also feels like a series of gritty photographs. With the film swimming from reality to nightmares, this film confuses almost intentionally.

Our favorite photographic scene?
The subway scene in the movie is astounding. Mixing reality and madness would make any viewer confused and scared at the edge of their seats.



8. The Man Who Wasn’t There

What makes this film good?
Directed by the Coen brothers with cinematography masterfully done by Roger Deakins (Skywall), The Man Who Wasn’t There follows the life of small town barber Billy Crane.

Our favorite photographic scene?
There are so many scenes that are picture perfect thanks to Roger Deakins work. The final scenes of the film inside the electrocution chamber is just haunting.




9. Tabu
What makes this film good?
Miguel Gomes’ recreates the F.W. Murnau’s Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) to show a story of unrequited love in Africa.

Our favorite photographic scene?
Tabu certain reminds us of the old vintage National Geographic photos of the savannah. Rui Poças’ cinematography of a love lost is beautifully done.


What do you folks think? Did we miss any great films for photography inspiration?