Wim Wenders’ photographs are like establishing shots: the wide angle images at the beginning of film scenes that locate the action to follow. This is no surprise since they were taken as the filmmaker scouted for locations in countries including Brazil, Japan, Italy, Germany and the US, taking the roads less traveled to seek out the enigmatic, evocative places that haunt these large-scale images.
The forty photos, spanning 1983 to 2011, play out over the walls of the Haunch of Venison gallery like a road movie, taking in a vast Japanese urban sunset in Onomichi Sunset (2005), a corner of contemporary America that still looks like an Edward Hopper painting in Street Corner in Butte, Montana (2003), and an empty al fresco cinema with bright orange rows of unoccupied seats in Open Air Screen (2007).
What Wenders presents to the viewers is a solitary trip. There are barely any people present; instead the works bare traces of the human presence and action that tell of stories that have passed or are yet to come. They feel like extracts from extended narratives that continue after the shutter clicked, rather than something that reveals all for the lens. This keeps the desolate imagery from alienating the viewer – something for which Wenders, as a filmmaker, would have an acute awareness.
Evidence of Wenders’ cinematic and painterly eye can be seen through his striking use of colour within his work, especially with a pop of fiery red or orange against a muted background. He contrasts the dusty pastels of textured landscapes or dulled urban tones against bright manmade objects, the aforementioned plastic chairs or the orange ladder that climbs out of the frame of Moscow Back Yard (2006).
Some of these images are huge, big enough for a viewer to completely fill their frame of vision. There are no close ups here, just scenarios revealing subtle thought-provoking details alongside potent empty spaces.
-- Laura Bushell
(Images: Wim Wenders, In Eastern Germany, Gorlitz, 2006 , C-Print , 183.5 x 210.2 cm, Copyright: Wim Wenders 2011, Courtesy: Haunch of Venison; Wim Wenders, Ferris Wheel, Armenia 2008, C-Print, 151.3 x 348 cm, Copyright: Wim Wenders 2007, Courtesy: Haunch of Venison; Wim Wenders, Open Air Screen, Palermo 2007, C-Print, 186×213 cm, C Print, 178 x 447 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Haunch of Venison)