Charting Authenticity

“The entire Polaroid process (and procedure) has nothing to do with our contemporary experience, when we look at virtual and vanishing apparitions on a screen that we can delete or swipe to the next one. Then, you produced and owned “an original”! – Wim Wenders.

Over the last few years, Polaroid cameras have re-emerged as a “must-have” accessory. By providing an alternative to a phone camera, whilst maintaining a sense of immediate gratification, the tool allows a visually spoon-fed generation a manageable means of rebellion. The Photographers’ Gallery’s, London, latest exhibition offers an insight into the polaroids of a previous generation, one which celebrated the precious means of capturing a moment. Through the particular previously unseen lens of Wim Wenders (b. 1945), audiences are given access to a direct exploration of not only his artistic process, but his conceptual contemplation of the medium as a whole.

The featured works serve as an artist’s sketch book; viewers can see the experimentation that has led to the final frames. The importance of the composition comes to light through the liminal spaces between intention and outcome, subject and realisation. Alongside diary-like impressions and homages to his artistic inspirations, including Fassbinder and Warhol, the small format images take us on a literal and metaphoric journey through Europe and the US.

The arrangement of larger, better-known works form a complete narrative, documenting everything from sun-bleached landscapes and self-portraits to city streets and blurred road trips The photographs hark back to the cultivated vision of Wenders, as it was in the 1960s. Amongst the 200 featured images are an intimate array of subjects, including selected stills from some of the represented films, each pinpointing the progression of Wenders’ cinematic career.

Instant Stories: Wim Wenders’ Polaroids opens 20 October at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. For more information:

1. Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977. © Wim Wenders. Courtesy of the artist.