The search for environmentally clean energy sources has spawned a wave of research into the use of carbon nanomaterials for photovoltaic applications. In particular, research using semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes has undergone dramatic transformations due to the availability of high quality samples through colloidal separation techniques. This has led to breakthrough discoveries on how energy and charge transport occurs in these materials and points to applications in energy harvesting. We present a review of the relevant photophysics of carbon nanotubes that dictate processes important for integration as active and passive material elements in thin film photovoltaics. Fundamental processes ranging from light absorption and internal conversion to exciton transport and dissociation are discussed in detail from both a spectroscopic and a device perspective. We also give a perspective on the future of these fascinating materials to be used as active and passive material elements in photovoltaics.