Art & Photography / Who, What, Why

Out West with Wim Wenders

We return to Paris, Texas with Wim Wenders, courtesy of a new edition of his photo book Written in the West

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Written in the West, RevisitedPhotography by Wim Wenders, Courtesy of Schirmer/Mosel

Who? In 1983, while on a location scout through western America for his iconic film Paris, Texas, lauded German filmmaker Wim Wenders captured a dreamy series of photographs on his Makina Plaubel 6 x 7 camera. Titled Written in the West, the images demonstrate the same fascination with the area's vibrant, light saturated vistas and vast expanses of wild landscape as the film itself, and make for compelling viewing both as a supplement to the film and in their own right. 

What? From golden fields of grazing buffalo and dilapidated signs set against a scorched and scopious desertscape, to richly-hued gas stations and austere shop fronts, the photographs are deeply solitary with a distinct focus on landscape over people. It is unsurprising then to learn that Wenders carried out the entire recce unassisted, waking up every morning and "driving off into the blue". “Solitude and taking photographs are connected in an important way,” Wenders explains of this approach. “If you aren’t alone, you can never acquire this way of seeing, this complete immersion in what you see, no longer to interpret, just looking.” As a result the images invite meditation; at once personal and universal, seen through the lens of an artist who refuses to impose himself upon his work. 

Why? Originally exhibited in 1986 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and first published in book form in 2000, we now have a welcome chance to return to Wenders' series thanks to a forthcoming new edition of the book, Written in the West, Revisited, which includes 15 new photographs of the sleepy town that gave the film its name (although interestingly no footage was ever actually shot there). Captured on a Fuji 6 x 4.5 camera, the latest additions are poetic documents of the director's abiding fascination with area and a search for personal memories. The book's release is perfectly timed to coincide with that of Wenders' much anticipated documentary Salt of the Earth – an investigation into the life and work of social documentary photographer Sebastião Salgado, made in collaboration with his son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. Suffice to say that July is Wenders' month!

Written in the West, Revisited is out July 28, published by Schirmer/Mosel.

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