Whenever someone asks me what inspires me as a photographer, one of the answers is always music. I love it when different forms of arts intertwine, and I know many photographers who are inspired by music just like I am.
But it appears that photography inspires musicians as well. Some of them take photos, and others write songs about it. I already wrote about great musicians who are also great photographers (twice). And today, I bring you my top ten songs about photography, photographers, or photos. Turn up the volume and enjoy this mashup of photography and music!
10. Falco – Kamikaze Cappa
Even though I discovered it just recently, this is the song that sparked the idea for this article. I started learning German in November, so I’ve been listening to a lot of music in German for the past two months.
It’s funny that this is the song I discovered most recently out of all on this list, even though it’s older than I am. It’s also funny that this is one of few Falco’s songs that are not in German… Which is probably the reason why I managed to understand it and figure out what it’s about. As you can probably guess, it’s about Robert Cappa, often described as “the greatest war photographer in the world.”
9. Alt-J – Taro
When we speak of Robert Cappa, it’s hard not to mention Gerda Taro – Cappa’s partner and another great war photographer. Alt-J dedicated the song Taro to her, and it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I discovered accidentally, like many other great things in life. It was one of those times when the YouTube algorithm absolutely nailed it, and I remember that the song stopped me in my tracks. It still does whenever I hear it.
8. Ed Sheeran – Photograph
A friend of mine who also loves photography sent me a link to Ed Sheeran’s Photograph when we were talking about photography a few years ago. She wanted to share the video with me, which is really cute and heartwarming. But I liked the song as well. Ed Sheeran’s music is usually not my cup of tea, but I liked this song a lot. And oh man, what a voice he has!
7. The Who – Pictures of Lily
I hadn’t heard this song for ages before I started thinking of the songs for this list. And I sure am glad I remembered it: I listened to The Who a lot when I was younger, so this was a nice throwback. “Lilly” from the song could be Lilian Mary Bayliss or Lillie Langtry. Mark Wilkerson described the lyrics as speaking “merely a ditty about masturbation and the importance of it to a young man,” but I’ll let you decide whether you agree.
6. Neil Young – Distant Camera
I absolutely love Neil Young’s voice. It makes me calm and I could listen to him no matter the mood I’m in. While Distant Camera is not my favorite song of his, it’s still beautiful and definitely deserves its place on my list.
5. Paul Simon – Kodachrome
There’s no way one could make a list of photography songs and not include Paul Simon’s Kodachrome. I think it’s one of the most popular songs about photography, and probably the first that comes to mind when you think of the songs on this topic. I personally find it entertaining, even though it’s not among my favorite Paul Simon’s songs.
4. Depeche Mode – A Photograph of You
I could never choose only one band to be my favorite. But if I absolutely had to, Depeche Mode would be competing for this prestigious title. I love all of their phases, including the somewhat childish first two albums. A Photograph of You was published on Depeche Mode’s second album A Broken Frame, but it’s not my favorite photography song from this band. Yup, there’s one more, so keep scrolling.
3. Duran Duran – Girls on Film
I remember this song from when I was a kid, just like many other Duran Duran hits. And I can’t describe my excitement when I heard it live at the EXIT Festival in 2012!
The first version of the song was recorded way back in 1979. It was “inspired by the dark side of the glitz and glamour,” according to Andy Wickett, a co-writer and the singer of Duran Duran at the time. And even though the lyrics are pretty dark, no one can stay steady when hearing this beat. I know I can’t.
2. The Cure – Pictures of You
Here’s another band that would compete for the prestigious title of my all-time favorite. And another band I was honored to see live two times. It’s hard to choose only of one of their songs to be my favorite, but Pictures of You is certainly high on the list.
1. Depeche Mode – Photographic
As I mentioned earlier, there’s one more Depeche Mode song about photography. It was released on their debut album Speak & Spell, almost 40 years ago. It’s one of my absolute favorite songs, and I first heard it when I was in high school.
I can’t tell you exactly why I love it so much. I just know it made me stop everything I was doing when I first heard it. It has a strange atmosphere that’s very dark and makes you want to dance at the same time. When I think about it, I find that in many of Depeche Mode’s songs, which is probably why I like them so much.
Bonus: Sam Newton – Camera Man
I wrote about Sam Newton’s Camera Man a few weeks ago. It’s a humorous photography-related song that pokes fun at lots of stuff in the industry. Other than being funny, it’s catchy as hell, so I should warn you: if you play it, you’ll sing it all day. And there’s some strong language too so be aware of that too.
If you’d like to hear all these songs as a playlist, I made you one. And let me know: what did I miss? Which songs would you add to this list?