These days being overwhelmed by media content is such a problem, that it’s important to sort out a plan of shows and movies you’ve still got to get round to seeing. After all, Westworld looks great, you’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about Luke Cage, and of course there’s still this week’s The Walking Dead to hatewatch. Well stop your moaning right there, because here’s a list of five recent photography-based programmes we demand you give a viewing.
1. Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro
This HBO documentary shines a light on Tony Vaccaro, a U.S infantryman in World War II who painstakingly captured images of conflict like no one ever has or likely ever will. Vaccaro wasn’t snapping photos in a professional capacity, he was simply a soldier on the front lines who knew that he was witnessing events that needed to be recorded. In total he took a staggering 8,000 photos during his service.
The stories told by Vaccaro, who’s still spritely at 93 years old, are unbelievable but true. As bullets flew past him during firefights he would switch between his rifle and camera, and during the brief respite periods he would process his film in upturned army helmets. A study at truthful determination during the dehumanising process of soldiering, it is a wake up call for any photographer who has complained when it’s just been a little chilly during an outdoor shoot.
Underfire is currently available on HBO on demand.
2. Top Photographer with Nigel Barker
Lightening things up here with a far less heavy or cerebral offering, Top Photographer with Nigel Barker has a completely ridiculous concept and is all the more wonderful for it. A show with the reality contest format of The Apprentice, Drag Race, or British Bake Off slapped awkwardly onto the photography genre should not work, and in fact, does not work. The sad truth is though that for any photography fan it is heroin-levels of addictive to watch.
We all know the format for these things; a group of plucky wannabes have to impress the stern experienced judge. The hopefuls have to perform a set of ridiculous tasks, with the weaker members being culled each episode. The madness of all this is that though you can measure the success of a cake or a product launch, judging photography is utterly subjective. Yes there are skills that need to be mastered but the overall tone of this show is “Art harder! You aren’t arting enough!” There are some useful tips and tricks to pick up but it is the truly batshit oddness of it that you’ll watch for.
Top Photographer is currently running, with three episodes freely viewable on the Adorama channel and new episodes arriving on Tuesday’s at 7pm EST. We were tempted to recommend Sky Arts’ Master of Photography, which toes the same idea but tries far too hard to be taken seriously.
Jumping forward to the present state of of war photography, we have the aptly named CONFLICT. Created by Nick Fitzhugh and Robert Shore as a six-part documentary online mini-series, it has garnered an incredible level international acclaim.
With each episode focusing on a different professional in this specialism, it’s a hard and unflinching look at the world of conflict photography from every angle. Yes, there are episodes focused on the inhuman suffering taking place in the hellish quagmires of war-torn nations, but what really makes this series interesting is how it turns the tables. CONFLICT uncovers conflict photography closer to home on the streets of first world cities, where domestic abuse and criminal violence tears communities apart. It also shows how working in these worlds leaves deep scars on the photographers minds as much as any bullet would on their flesh.
4. Jim: The James Foley Story
The third and last war-based photography programme on this list, HBO Documentary Jim: The James Foley Story, isn’t so much about the day to day activities of a war correspondent as much as it is an examination of the importance reportage has. The film, which won an Emmy and a Sundance award for excellence in documentary filmmaking, explores the events surrounding the kidnapping and murder of American photojournalist James “Jim” Foley.
The film charts Foley’s life up to and including his capture in Syria by ISIS on Thanksgiving Day 2012. The documentary team speak with Foley’s colleagues, friends, and family members about what they did and how they felt during his two years in captivity and on witnessing his eventual beheading on video. It is a stark reminder of the toll taken on the loved ones of photojournalists serving in dangerous environments but also serves to show why these brave personnel are absolutely necessary.
Though currently unavailable on HBO, Jim: The James Foley Story is available to watch on Amazon.
5. Tales By Light
Tales By Light is an Australian-made six-part series part produced by Canon and looks utterly phenomenal. Shot in jaw-dropping 4K the series follows five of the world’s best photographers as they travel to most outer untouched reaches of the globe and celebrates their craft.
The reason to catch this show is just to enjoy the sheer beauty on display in the hands of camera masters. Series one includes; humpback whales shot by world-renowned Australian underwater/nature photographer Darren Jew, cultural photographer Art Wolfe photographing the native people of Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia, the adventure photography of Krystle Wright, travel photographer Richard l’Anson’s journeys in the Himalayas, and legendary landscape photographer Peter Eastway capturing the majesty of the antarctic.
The entirety of Tales By Light season one is available on Netflix. Without a doubt, this is a series that will make you want to grab the nearest camera and smash down your front door to take pictures of all you survey. So make sure you get that latest Walking Dead episode out of the way first. (Damn it Coraal…)
Seen any good shutterbug shows lately? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, and in the comments!