Wim Wenders

Self Portrait, 1975
Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977
New York Parade, 1972
Sidney, 1984
Alice in den Städten, 1974

Wilhelm Ernst “Wim” Wenders (born August 14, 1945 in Düsseldorf, Germany) is a German film director and photographer.
Wim Wenders initially wanted to become a painter. But after failing to get into art school, he moved to Paris in 1966 and studied with engraver Johnny Friedlaender (1912-1992). There, Wenders discovered the Cinémathèque française and developed an interest in film. He moved back to Germany and studied at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film in Munich from 1967 to 1970.
Wenders had his international breakthrough as a filmmaker in 1977 with The American Friend. In the years that followed, he also gained international acclaim for films such as Paris, Texas, which earned him the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1984, and Wings of Desire, for which he won the Best Director award at Cannes in 1987. Wenders has also produced successful documentaries, including Buena Vista Social Club (1999).
In addition to his film career, Wim Wenders is also a photographer. Although he has welcomed digital cinema as a filmmaker and made several 3D films, as a photographer he never touches a digital camera. He has developed a very special relationship with Polaroid photography, more precisely with an SX-70 camera. While shooting Alice in the Cities (1974), Wenders was provided with a prototype of the SX-70 camera by the Polaroid company. This not only made its film debut but also became an elementary part of the plot in which the protagonist, a photographer, wanders the streets with the camera.
Wim Wenders produced around 12,000 instant pictures between the late 1960s and early 1980s. Many photographs were taken on his travels, when he was looking for film locations or during filming, when Wenders sometimes photographed his actors and crew. He used the camera as a kind of “visual notepad.” “The Polaroids helped the filming process. They were not an end in themselves,” but rather “a means to remember things.”[1]
By his own account, Wim Wenders photographed “like a man possessed”: he shot cityscapes and landscapes, photographed everyday subjects that seem to anticipate the Instagram age, and he also captured special moments, such as the public mourning following the death of John Lennon in New York. The photographs, most of which Wenders gave away, have far more than just an autobiographical value in this regard. Since the mid-1980s, his photographs have been on display in galleries and museums around the world. Of the remaining 3500 Polaroid photos, some were exhibited in 2017 and reviewed in magazines such as The New Yorker and the English newspaper The Guardian.
Wim Wenders has not taken pictures with an instant camera since the early 1980s, instead turning back to negatives. “In the past, every picture was about its uniqueness. As such, it was sacred, so to speak. I no longer carry that idea.”[2] On digital photography today, he says, “I don’t know why we still call it photography. There should be another word for it. But no one has bothered to come up with a new term.”[3]

[1] https://learngerman.dw.com/de/wim-wenders-zeigt-seine-polaroids-in-berlin/a-44546430 (Status: 21 September 2022)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Polaroid books

Wim Wenders. Sofort Bilder
Schirmer Mosel 2017
ISBN-10: 3829608160
ISBN-13: ‎978-3829608169

Wim Wenders. Polaroids
Distributed Art Pub 2018
ISBN: 978-1-942884-20-0