3 movies that will make you a better photographer

“Photography isn’t looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

—McCullin, regarded as world’s foremost war photographer


Protege is a HK-Singapore gangster movie by director Derek Yee about an undercover cop that becomes the favored protege of a HK drug baron and must ultimately betray him. Stunning and dreamy, it brilliantly captures the visual density, richness and chaos so particular to Asia.

Lost in Translation:

Sophia Ford Coppola is one of the strongest visual thinkers today. Like most of her movies, there is almost no dialog in Lost in Translation, relying almost entirely on visuals to create layers and textures, from the blue of the hotel swimming pool, the dark, cushioned, luxurious hotel room in which the characters are awake all night, the crowded Tokyo streets, the purity of temple.

She paints with pictures like Impressionists painted with dots of colors. More than anyone, Coppola gives you a feeling of what it must be like to be in that particular place, that particular time, what the light would have been, how the raindrops would have touched your skin, the rythm of crossing a strange bridge — Tokyo lives and breathes.

5 centimers per second:

This stunning anime named after what legend claims to be the speed of cherry blossoms falling, uses an interesting technique of alternating between shots depicting the action, and shots of details that create the impression of being there: doors of train opening and closing, view inside a school building from the outside, a classroom filled with empty desks, students sleeping on the train on the way home, trees and twilight sky at school sports practice: not just the story, but the fleeting sense of time passing, every second precisely articulated.

What is good about all these movies is that they create a sense of time and place, they are so dense with what they are, there is no place for what they are not. Photography should be about that too, about revealing the true nature of what something is.

And one bonus quote on architecture that will make you a better photographer:

“And architecture is so closely intertwined with [the human soul] because we are born somewhere and we die somewhere. So the reality of architecture is visceral. It’s not intellectual. It’s not something that comes to us from books and theories. It’s the real, that we touch, the door, the window, the threshold, the bed. ”

–Daniel Libeskind, in 17 words of Architectural Inspiration

What movies have made you a better photographer?

2 Responses to “3 movies that will make you a better photographer”

  1. 1 janet July 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Also Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express–incredible use of light–

  2. 2 julielavoie July 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Janet,

    I haven’t seen that one, thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely check it out!

    I love this review of it:

    “Masterful Hong Kong film-maker Wong Kar Wai understands that love is about the unspoken moments between people, the hidden gestures betraying loneliness. Chungking Express is a unique expression of such notions of love. The film doesn’t pretend that love is all-embracing and constant, in the way so many predictable films would suggest. Love, for the protagonists of this film, comes and goes between subtle glances – always elusive.”

    from imdb:


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A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

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