Wim Wenders Goes Someplace Quieter

You may know German film director Ernst Wilhelm Wenders—typically credited as Wim Wenders—as the director of Paris, Texas. The director has quietly added painter, essayist, and photographer to his list of accomplishments since the cult film’s 1984 release. His last bound project was released nearly a decade ago and consisted of essays written while he was a film student. The director’s most recent endeavor—a book of photographs precisely titled Places, strange and quiet (Hatje Cantz)—chronicles Wenders’ various travels, and sucks the audience into the artist’s largely pensive perception.

The images date back as far as 1983, and span the globe from São Paolo to Moscow. Largely comprised of sparse landscapes with few human figures occupying the pages—and those that are visible are only seen from behind—the 124-page book is elevated by the equally simplistic footnotes that accompany each photograph. The often-bemused Wenders approaches his human subjects with the same raw curiosity that is often evident in his films. An image of a rodeo clown is left with “It is amazing how many different ideas of ‘fun’ co-exist in this world.” And a sunbather in Italy causes the photographer to wonder, “…what could the opposite of this be? I couldn’t help thinking that this ‘beach scene’ in Palermo was already part of a parallel world.”

The viewer is largely left with discarded objects as any indication of human occupancy: a towel draped next to an outdoor sink, fresh flowers arranged at a gravesite, bullet holes in a building from a firefight during WWII. As New York residents, we found this aspect of the photographs most startling—or as Wenders eloquently put it, “Sometimes the absence of a thing makes you so much more aware of it. Especially if its something we take for granted.”