Wim Wenders, the prolific German creative with a host of honours celebrating his work, has unveiled his extensive Polaroid diary taken between 1973 and 1983.
At a time his film career was beginning to skyrocket in popularity, his Polaroid diary documents his creative style right up to the release of his spectacularly cinematic film Paris, Texas. On that film, Wenders worked with his close collaborator and cinematographer Robby Müller who himself spent most of his early career documenting life through the medium of Polaroid so it should come as little surprise that Wenders’ output looks like it walked right off one of his film sets.
“The thing is,” he said in an interview with the Guardian, “you gave them away. You had the person in front of you, whose picture you had just taken, and it was like they had more right to it.
“The Polaroids helped with making the movies, but they were not an aim in themselves. They were disposable,” he adds. “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…. 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.”
Wenders, who is now 73 and an established member of New German Cinema, believes he has taken in excess of 12,000 Polaroids during the aforementioned dates. Of those, around 3,500 remain and they recently went on show at London’s Photographers’ Gallery.
The images, which were taken during a time when Wenders created films such as The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty, Alice in the Cities and Lightning Over Water offers an intimate glimpse into the mind of one of Germany’s most prolific creators. Whether it be a car shot in the desert, a selfie in the bathroom or Dennis Hopper smoking a cigarette in a cowboy hat.
Despite their beauty and char, Wenders’ use of Polaroids is well over. In a somewhat symbolic moment to move on, he gave his last camera to his close 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.”
“The culture has changed. It has all gone. I really don’t know why we stick to the word photography any more. There should be a different term, but nobody cared about finding it.”