Art And Culture

Wenders Discusses Honesty of Polaroids

Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977

Renowned German filmmaker and photographer Wim Wenders, 72, discusses the unique honesty of Polaroid’s at his new exhibition underway at The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

Titled ‘Instant Stories,’ the exhibit presents over 250 of Wenders’ Polaroids encompassing portraits of cast and crew, friends and family, behind the scenes, still lives, street photography and landscapes, according to the British Journal of Photography (

Polaroid is an American company that is a brand of consumer electronics to companies that distribute consumer electronics and eyewear. It is best known for its Polaroid instant film and cameras.

Alongside diarylike impressions and homage to his artistic inspirations, including German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-1982) and American pop artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987), the small format images take visitors on a literal and metaphoric journey through Europe and the US.

From his first trip to New York, his fascination with American TV, views from rooftops, shop-fronts, roads, cars and many other visual recordings, Wenders’ Polaroids reflect a distinctive and lyrical vision, at once both intimate and portentous.

“When I took all these thousands of Polaroids between the late 1960s and early 80s it was anything but nostalgic. At the time, that was modernity,” Wenders said about the featured photos.

Wenders’ large-format landscape photographs have been exhibited in galleries around the world, but he has not taken a Polaroid in years. It might seem strange then that the filmmaker behind such works as the Palme d’Or-winning ‘Paris, Texas’ (1984), ‘Wings of Desire’ (1987) and the Academy Award-nominated documentary about Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, ‘The Salt of the Earth’ (2014), has launched an exhibition featuring over 250 of his old Polaroids, most of which were captured on his beloved SX-70, a classic make of Polaroid cameras.

  Past and Present

‘Instant Stories,’ on show at The Photographers’ Gallery, until February 11, 2018, is far from an exercise in nostalgia, says Wenders. The photographs, selected from an unearthed collection of thousands, may confront the past - documenting stories of friends, actors, film sets and travels across open roads - but for him, their relevance lies in the lessons they can bring to the present, particularly to how one understands photography.

“Polaroids remind us of innocence, of a different attitude toward the world and toward the act of taking pictures. And of course these images show an interesting journey through the first movies I made. There was some sort of testimony in these Polaroids that I thought could be interesting to oppose to our present culture of instant picture-taking,” Wenders explained.

For Wenders, Polaroids are not art. Rather, they are spontaneous, playful and communicative objects that celebrate the uniqueness of the individual moment and the “unmanipulated truth” of time.

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