11 Still Photographers-Turned-Filmmakers - Raindance

Photographers and filmmakers have a lot in common. They capture images in the hopes of telling a story, inspiring an emotion, or to document a place in time.  Unsurprisingly, there is some overlap in talent within these two professions. The following is a list of notable photographers-turned-filmmakers (and one filmmaker-turned-photographer but we’ll get to him when we get to him.)


1.) Man Ray

Born in 1890, Man Ray, (real name Emmanuel Radnitzky,) started taking photos early in life. He eventually became a part of the Dada movement, and worked in fashion photography along with doing his own experimental work. He toiled in many mediums, but is known for his still images.

First Film: Rue Campagne-Première (1923)

Last Film: Juliet (1940)


L’étoile de mer/The Starfish (1928)


2.) Robert Frank

In the 40’s Mr. Frank began experimenting with photography. After a massive road trip across The USA during which he took his young family along, Mr. Frank published “The Americans” an eye-opening photo book of American life that is highly regarded to this day. A notable work of his is Cocksucker Blues (1972), a Rolling Stones documentary so revealing that, after filming, the band took Mr. Frank to court prevent it from being shown except in controlled screenings.

First Film: Pull My Daisy (1959)

Latest Film: Alfred Leslie: Cool Man in a Golden Age (2009)


3.) Ed Van Der Elsken

Following WWII, after sculpting turned out not to be a viable career option, Mr. Van Der Elsken turned to photography, and later, film. One of his most famous photography works, Love on the Left Bank, is a look at the bohemian scene in Paris during the 1950’s.

First Film: Dylaby (1961)

Last Film: Bye (1990)


4.) William Klein

Mr. Klein was born in 1928. His start with photography was simply personal interest. However, his pictures were good enough to attract the interest of Vogue, which eventually offered him a position doing fashion work. He has made documentaries of both Muhammad Ali, (Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee in 1969,) and Little Richard, (The Little Richard Story in 1980).

First Film: Broadway By Light (1958)

Latest Film: Messiah (1999)


Broadway By Light (1958)


5.) Stanley Kubrick

Not much is known about this mysterious photograph- oh who are we kidding? If you have a basic interest in film you have heard of Mr. Kubrick or at least of some of his most famous films, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, among several others. What you might not know about him is that he was interested in still photography in high school and that his work there led to a position with Look magazine that lasted for several years.

First Film: Flying Padre: An RKO-Pathe Screenliner (1951)

Last Film: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)


Trailer for Full Metal Jacket (1987)


6.) Raymond Depardon

Mr. Depardon started out as a photography apprentice in 1958. He became a reporter and started an agency, but was also drawn to filmmaking. He worked on his photography and filmmaking simultaneously, and has earned awards for each.

First Film: Venezuela (1963)

Latest Film: Journal de France (2012)


Clip from Journal de France (2012)


7.) Wim Wenders

Mr. Wenders is unique on this list because he actually started in film first. (But his work in both makes him an essential entry!) He got into photography while working on his film Paris, Texas in 1984. However, he has continued his film work and will be releasing a new movie this spring.

First Film: Schauplätze (1967)

Latest Film: Everything Will Be Fine (2015)


Trailer for Paris, Texas (1984)


8.) Anton Corbijn

Taking pictures of musicians for magazines is how Mr. Corbijn got his start. He eventually moved into directing by the way of music videos, and jumped to feature film in 2007. His most recent work, Life, is about the film star James Dean and his relationship with reporter Dennis Stock.

First Film: Control (2007)

Latest Film: Life (2015)


Trailer for A Man Most Wanted (2014)


9.) Spike Jonze

Filming and taking pictures of skateboarding is how Mr. Jonze got his start.  He later directed a Beastie Boys music video and has even done some acting. But his main focus is currently directing, with one of his latest works being the” Only One” Kanye West music video that premiered  at the end of January.

First Film: Video Days (1991)

Latest Film: Choose You (2013)


Trailer for Her (2013) 


10.) Tim Hetherington

Mr. Hetherington received a university degree in photojournalism in 2007.  He did work for the Human Rights Watch and the United Nations as well as for the press, while also working on other film and photo related pursuits. As he was photographing in Libya in 2011, he was killed during a mortar attack.

First Film: Liberia: An Uncivil War (2004)

Last Film: Korengal (2014)


Diary (2010)


11.) Pep Bonet

Mr. Bonet has been winning awards for his photography since 2002. He has covered topics such as Poland’s coal industry, the child labour practices in Bangladesh and AIDS/HIV in all parts of the world. In his first film, Into the Shadows, he turns a lens on Johannesburg and the struggles of the migrants found there.

First Film: Into the Shadows (2013)

Latest Film: Ponerse al Dia (2015)


Teaser for The Afronauts (2013)


Sources for more information:

Man Ray

Robert Frank

Ed Van Der Elsken

William Klein

Stanley Kubrick

Raymond Depardon

Wim Wenders

Anton Corbijn

Spike Jonze

Tim Hetherington

Pep Bonet