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photo-eye Book Reviews: Places, Strange and Quiet

Places, Strange and Quite, Photographs by Wim Wenders.
Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
Places, Strange and Quite
Reviewed by John Mathews
Wim Wenders Places, Strange and Quiet
Photographs by Wim Wenders
Hatje Cantz, 2011. Hardbound. 124 pp., 37 color illustrations, 6-1/2x8-3/4".

Places, Strange and Quiet is a visual diary of journeys taken throughout Europe, Japan and North America by the German filmmaker Wim Wenders. The locations are possibly discovered through reconnaissance for potential film locations and may act as a way of consolidating Wenders' distinctive cinematic vision. Within the book there are nine panoramic fold out panels that emphasise the cinematic undertones of the collection.

Wenders' develops an acute awareness of his environment using the fresh perspective of a stranger and manages to capture the unique and hidden quirks of areas. He derives great pleasure and stimulus from simply wandering around places and getting lost. Through these journeys he discovers a range of unexpected vistas such as vacant lots, odd recesses and abandoned railway tunnels that contain hidden paintings. He explains his reasoning within the following excerpt from the book: "When you travel a lot, and when you love to just wander around and get lost, you can end up in the most unusual spots…. I don't know, it must be some sort of built-in radar that often directs me to places that are strangely quiet, or quietly strange."

Places, Strange and Quiet, by Wim Wenders. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
Places, Strange and Quiet, by Wim Wenders. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
Many of the locations that Wenders chances upon are uninhabited and have a melancholy beauty to them, whilst others take a more humorous look at subjects such as tourism, cultural appropriation and the way in which urban spaces are occupied. The photographs are propelled by an intuitive and often bemused sense of curiosity that finds symmetry and beauty within everyday situations. Overall the book has a meditative sense of calm, which is extenuated by the short haiku-style texts that accompany each of the images. These poetic and anecdotal texts, which are also presented in their original German, succinctly comment on the mysterious situations that Wenders finds himself in. An uncanny view of a windowless back yard contains the perceptive comment "Sometimes the absence of a thing makes you so much more aware of it. Especially if it is something we take for granted. Like windows…" The book provides an excellent overview of Wenders' photographic works from 1983 to 2011 and offers an intriguing insight into the visual psyche of an acclaimed filmmaker.—JOHN MATHEWS

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JOHN MATHEWS is an artist and curator from Belfast, Northern Ireland.