Polaroids of WW

Sean O'Hagan*1 “Wim Wenders on his Polaroids – and why photography is now over” https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/oct/12/wim-wenders-interview-polaroids-instant-stories-photographers-gallery

映画作家ヴィム・ヴェンダース*2は、自身の記憶によれば、1973年から1983年までの10年間に1万2000枚のポラロイド写真を撮っているが、現在手許に残っているのは3500枚だけである。倫敦のフォトグラファーズ・ギャラリー*3では近くヴェンダースのポラロイド写真展Instant Storiesが開催される*4

Four decades on, the Photographers’ Gallery in London is about to host an extensive exhibition of Wenders’s early Polaroids called Instant Stories. They date from that prolific period in the 1970s that produced now classic films such as The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty, Alice in the Cities*5 and The American Friend. Many capture moments in the making of these movies, but others are records of the places he travelled through: cities, small towns, deserts, highways and hotels. Like his films, they all possess a melancholic romanticism. “My first reaction was, ‘Wow! Where did this all come from?’ I had forgotten about so much of it. I realised I had been taking pictures like a maniac.”

The Polaroids have been grouped under characteristically evocative titles: Photo Booths, Jukeboxes and Typewriters; Looking for America; California Dreaming; Mean Streets. Together, they add up to an impressionistic diary of a time when “there was no sadness, no anger, there was nothing but sheer innocence, not only my own, but everyone around me. The films were made from one day to another without any great thinking process. They were made from the gut – and the Polaroids also are made from the gut.”

都会のアリス [DVD]

都会のアリス [DVD]

アメリカの友人 デジタルニューマスター版 [DVD]

アメリカの友人 デジタルニューマスター版 [DVD]


Wenders, now 72, was given his first camera as a child in Düsseldorf by his father, a doctor. “He took pictures all his life, but never thought of himself as a photographer. He passed on his appreciation to me. I had to learn about exposure, focus, all the technical stuff. But much as I loved doing it, I also never thought of myself as a photographer. Even later with the Polaroids, that was still the case.”

Does he think that defined the images he made? “Yes. For sure. If ever I had wanted to really take a picture of something, I would not have done it with a Polaroid. I never thought of it as giving the real picture.”

When approached by the Photographers’ Gallery, he thought long and hard about exhibiting them. “I really hesitated. The only justification for putting them in a gallery is that they show what happened. They are a healthy memory of how things were and what we have lost. The realisation that we have lost something is not necessarily nostalgic. It can be tragic.”


(...)“The meaning of these Polaroids is not in the photos themselves – it is in the stories that lead to them. That’s why the exhibition is called Instant Stories – the catalogue is a storybook more than a photo book.”

The accompanying stories are certainly fascinating. In one, he recalls a chance encounter in 1973 with “a tall young woman” who takes the seat beside him at the bar in CBGB, the legendary New York nightclub. Sensing his loneliness, she gives him her name and number as she is leaving, telling him to call should he find himself alone in San Francisco.

A week later, he does just that – and so begins a friendship with a young music photographer called Annie Leibovitz*6, who takes him on a road trip to Los Angeles. “I took some pictures on the road and so did Annie,” he says. The seven shots she took of him driving are in the exhibition.


Unlike his later photography, which is mainly landscapes and buildings*7, Instant Stories includes several portraits, including the great Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller*8, the German actor Senta Berger, and the late Dennis Hopper, who starred in The American Friend. Hopper was also an accomplished photographer*9. Did they compare notes? “Not really. Dennis was” – long pause – “a carefree person. By the time our paths crossed, he had left photography behind and was painting. We spoke about photography and I saw and loved his work. We even made a film in which his character talks about photography a lot. But for Dennis, photography was a thing of the past. I knew him from 1976 and I never saw him taking a picture.”

Wenders, too, now regards photography as a thing of the past. “It’s not just the meaning of the image that has changed – the act of looking does not have the same meaning. Now, it’s about showing, sending and maybe remembering. It is no longer essentially about the image. The image for me was always linked to the idea of uniqueness, to a frame and to composition. You produced something that was, in itself, a singular moment. As such, it had a certain sacredness. That whole notion is gone.”


Last year, as if in acknowledgment of this, he gave his Polaroid camera to his friend Patti Smith. “Hers was old and damaged and letting the light in,” he says. “I had the same camera. I was never going to use it any more.”

So Instant Stories is also an elegy for the Polaroid itself, and all it stood for. “At the time, it was part of everyday life, another thing you used for living – like food and air and the stinky cars we were driving and the cigarettes everyone was smoking. Today, making a Polaroid is just a process.”

*1:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100110/1263140490 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20111025/1319559459 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130318/1363611243 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20140915/1410760576 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20141022/1413946059 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20141103/1414943264 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160722/1469197634

*2:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20050711 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060315/1142441815 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060316/1142513147 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060319/1142769329 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20061020/1161371359 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070603/1180843922 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20071115/1195100485 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080331/1206898459 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080430/1209575387 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080714/1216008269 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20090703/1246590544 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20090916/1253104360 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100530/1275205297 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100910/1284085760 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20101113/1289628160 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110305/1299297204 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110718/1310956516 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110904/1315163207 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110922/1316625315 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20111011/1318258711 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120204/1328324133 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20131118/1384777554 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20141112/1415765438 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20150610/1433951044 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20170916/1505573364

*3:http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/ See eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Photographers%27_Gallery


*5:See eg. Peter Bradshaw “Alice in the Cities” https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/jan/04/worldcinema.drama2

*6:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20091217/1261022591 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20101209/1291862237

*7:See eg. Sarah Gilbert “The photography of Wim Wenders – in pictures” https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2015/apr/02/the-photography-of-wim-wenders-in-pictures

*8:See John Patterson “Down By Law: the monochrome mastery of Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller” https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/sep/08/down-by-law-the-monochrome-mastery-of-dutch-cinematographer-robby-muller

*9:See Sean O'Hagan “Dennis Hopper's revealing 1960s photographs – in pictures” https://www.theguardian.com/film/gallery/2014/jun/15/dennis-hopper-revealing-1960s-photographs-in-pictures