Wenders brings to this collection of photographic essays the same literary and cinematic talents, the same command of the art of storytelling that we find in his films. In the tradition of “Paris, Texas” and “Faraway, So Close”, the texts and pictures in “Once” weave ambiguous and moving narratives in fits of rhythmic prose and inventive imagery. Prefaced by Wenders’ poetic meditations on the metaphysics of photography and film, Once consists of short, autobiographical sketches relating Wenders’ experiences both meaningful and apparently trivial on his trips across the world scouting locations for his films, as well as photographs taken during these excursions. The resulting exhibition is at once travel diary, photo album, and a series of short films or short stories revealing the views and sentiments of an auteur inspired by the poetry of the eye and the melody of speech”
Influences: from Photography: August Sauder, Walker Evans, Robert Frank
from Painting: Hopper
“New Topographics” (1975) : Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams
new colour images – William Eggleston,Sebastiao Salgado, Andreas Gursky
I confess to being a workaholic. And as movies always take up a year or two of your life, I’m happiest filling some of the time in between taking pictures.
This picture was taken in the summer of 1978, when I was living in San Francisco and working on a movie called Hammett, for Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Pictures. One weekend, at very short notice, I was told that I could join the film director Akira Kurosawa on a trip to Francis’s home in Napa Valley. Kurosawa was in town to discuss a film that Francis and George Lucas were going to executive produce, which turned out to be one of his last great masterpieces – Kagemusha.
Francis sent his wonderful old Mercedes 600 limousine (pre-owned by the Pope, if I remember correctly) to drive Kurosawa, his translator and Tom Luddy of the Pacific Film Archive out into the country. The car was going to pick me up on the way, and I was standing on the street watching it arrive when I suddenly realised I should take a camera. I ran back up to my apartment and chose my old Russian Horizon, a 35mm panoramic gizmo that I liked because it was light and uncomplicated.
As it turned out, the trip became quite an adventure. The old Mercedes gave up in the middle of nowhere, its engine steaming. The driver didn’t have a clue how to get it going again. So we all wandered into a country fair, where we could at least find some shade and cold drinks. I remember I took some pictures of Kurosawa walking around, including one that shows him in the midst of a Cajun band, the Louisiana Playboys.
Finally, our saviour appeared, in the person of the documentary film-maker Les Blank, who passed by in his beat-up old van and volunteered to take our entourage to Napa Valley. The van was a sort of hippy vehicle without seats, just mattresses in the back to lie on – so you can imagine Francis’s amazement when this beat-up wreck stopped in front of his mansion and Akira Kurosawa climbed out.
The day was scorching hot, so Francis took his guests to a pond in the little forest behind his property. That’s when I took this picture of a lazy Sunday afternoon in paradise. You can see Francis in the water and Tom Luddy on the big rock, along with Francis’s wife Eleanor and his daughter
Sofia (still a little girl), as well as Kurosawa’s translator. Kurosawa himself is sitting in the shade. He, of course, could not be persuaded to jump into the water. The fact that he had spent the excursion in shirtsleeves was quite a concession already.
The only great view of the whole group was from the water, so I swam out with my Horizon – you can see my foot in the foreground – and took this picture, guessing the exposure. For a long time, nobody said a word. It was as if we were all aware of this instant of bliss: the sun shining through the trees; the sound of the crickets; the utter peacefulness of a moment that united several generations of film-makers. Life is good – and every now and then a photograph can do it justice.
/from The Guardian, 12th March 2009, Wim wenders’ Best Shot/
Wenders began his career in film as part of the New German Cinemain at the end of the 1960s, making his feature directorial debut with “Summer in the City” in 1970. Awards that he has received include the Golden Lion for “The State of Things” at the Venice Film Festival in 1982, the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984 for his movie “Paris, Texas”, and Best Direction for “Wings of Desire” in the 1987 Bavarian Film Awards and the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Wenders was awarded honorary doctorates at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989 and at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium in 2005. In 1993 he again won the Bavarian Film Awards for Best Director. He was awarded the Leopard of Honour at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2005.
Much of the cinematography in his movies was as a result of a highly productive collaboration with Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller. He also worked with the famous Austrian writer Peter Handke, adapting Handke’s novel “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick” for his second feature film, “The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty”, and then collaborating with Handke in one of his most famous movies, “Wings of Desire”. He co-wrote “Until the End of the World”starring actress and romantic interest Solveig Dommartin.
He has directed several highly acclaimed documentaries, most notably “Buena Vista Social Club” about the musicians of Cuba, and “Soul of a Man” about American blues.
Wenders has directed many music videos for U2, such as “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” and a number of television commercials including a UK advertisement for Carling Premier Canadian beer. His book, “Emotion Pictures” – a collection of diary essays written while a film student – was broadcast as a series of plays on BBC Radio 3, featuring Peter Capaldi as Wenders, with Gina McKee, Saskia Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Ricky Tomlinson, dramatised by Neil Cargill.
Wenders is also a member of the advisory board of World Cinema Foundation. The project was founded by Martin Scorsese and aimed at finding and reconstructing world cinema films that have been long neglected.