Unexpected Symmetry

For 20 years, Wes Anderson (b. 1969) has established an immediately recognisable style. From the saturated shades of Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and the fading grandeur and preposterous luxury of Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) to the apocalyptic (yet friendly) dumps in Isle of Dogs (2018), Anderson’s aesthetics are retro and playful, defined by vivid colours, front-on façades and sharp symmetry. The result is stranger than fiction: meticulously constructed landscapes that toe the line between the familiar and whimsy.

The Instagram account @accidentallywesanderson has, for the last two years, been capturing and curating hundreds of photographs of real-world places inspired by the imaginary landscapes of Anderson’s films. What began as the premise of a Reddit thread has blossomed into a viral phenomenon with over one million followers. Now, it’s being published as an expansive photobook, written by the Instagram account’s founder and self-described “Anderson fanboy,” Wally Koval, and with a foreword by the legendary filmmaker himself.

With 200 locations packed with quirky imagery, Accidentally Wes Anderson celebrates a unique approach. In Portugal’s sleepy Viera de Leiria sits an old-fashioned house with matte red seats and varnished wooden framings. At the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro is a tiny sloped hut. A bright yellow train sits amidst Egypt’s Valley of Kings, whilst a white ferry punctuates the flowing turquoise waters of the Bosporus.

A highlight, pointed out by Anderson in the preface, is a pancake stand in Krka National Park in Croatia. Set against a backdrop of gorges, lakes and waterfalls, it’s wedged between a Byzantine church and an ancient Roman catacomb marked by first century graffiti: “Nothing could better complement this marriage of natural wonder and sweeping history than Croatian pancakes,” Koval remarks. Its quaint wooden architecture and absurdist context make it a natural fit for the director’s style – you half-expect Bill Murray to be standing out of shot, or one of the Wilson brothers to be running past.

On the grander scale is Hearst Castle (as in, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon) in California, whose ornate exteriors, we’re told, were inspired by a trip around Europe when Hearst was 10 years old. Once described by guest George Bernard Shaw as “what God would have built if he had the money,” the estate features an Italian palazzo and a Gothic suite, amongst other things. Its tennis courts, captured in the book, are perhaps its most modest feature. Yet its muted green and cream colours are paired with a view of California’s mountain range. The stables – home to zebras, elk and sheep – are the perfect dose of magical realism. Whilst some entries are more convincing than others, Koval’s immaculate choice of images and snappy commentary breathes life into these punchy façades. Once you’ve stepped into this world, it’s truly difficult to leave.

ACCIDENTALLY WES ANDERSON by Wally Koval is published by Trapeze in Hardback. 29th October 2020, £25. Find out more here.

Words: Gunseli Yalcinkaya

Lead image: Photographed by James Wong. Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval. Published by Trapeze, 29 October 2020. Hardback and eBook www.accidentallywesanderson.com.
1. HOTEL OPERA Prague, Czech Republic | c. 1891 Photo by Valentina Jacks
2. CABLE CAR Cologne, Germany | c. 1957 Photo by Oliver Stolzenberg
3. ROBERTS COTTAGES Oceanside, California | c. 1928 Photo by Paul Fuentes
4. THE WHITE CYCLONE AT NAGASHIMA SPA LAND Kuwana, Japan | c. 1994–2018 Photo by Paul Hiller