CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 6/5/2015
In 1983, while scouting locations for his award-winning New German Western, Paris, Texas, filmmaker Wim Wenders made a series of the photographs that were later collected in the 1987 first edition of Written in the West. Now, three decades later, we are pleased to present a new and revised edition. Below are a series of photographs from the book, along with Wenders' concluding essay, I like Paris in the Winter.
ABOVE: "Western World" Near Four Corners, California, 1983.
I LIKE PARIS IN THE WINTER
By Wim Wenders
My first trip as a photographer, which almost 30 years ago lead to this book, Written in the West, was above all a journey of discovery into the light and colors of the American West. None of the places I photographed back then ended up becoming a location – some months later, in the movie Paris, Texas. Yet, to a large extent shooting was based on an intimate knowledge of the small towns and landscapes that I had previously explored alone. I knew the territory and was not afraid of these Kodachrome skies, this wide horizon and this blinding light. And above all my trip helped me dismiss my concern, I’d only be able to see the West through the eyes of John Ford or Anthony Mann...
ABOVE: "Union," Ludlow, California, 1983.
It was not without irony that the small Texan town, which gave the film its name, never actually featured in it. In the biography of our hero Travis it remained a place of longing in which the tragic story of his mother’s life was symbolized.
She had to accept that her husband, Travis’ father, would always present her as the young girl he had found in Paris, and then he would always wait a beat before adding “Texas,” which he found dreadfully funny, but which Travis recalled as being rather embarrassing for his mother. In his life, Paris, Texas, was only the place he happened to be fathered, but then the town took on mythical proportions for him after all. He felt vaguely drawn back to it, and got it into his head to settle there with his family. But in our story it never comes to that. All we see of Paris in the film is a faded photo of a vacant lot that Travis buys in the mail.
ABOVE: Landscape Near Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1983.
This is why I have always had a bit of a guilty conscience about this little town on the Red River that I so shamefully ignored. Years later I went back there for two days in winter and this time I explored it better, at least photographically, than on my first visit.
Paris, Texas, was a sleepy little town whose reputation was largely based on being the place where the legendary Campbell’s Tomato Soup was made, that which was immortalized in the pictures of Andy Warhol. Otherwise, the place showed signs of economic depression. The big towns nearby, Fort Worth and Dallas, had long since outdone it.
ABOVE: "Lyric," Odessa, Texas, 1983.
Already on arrival a sign on the main road indicated that Paris, Texas, was a “dry town,” where prohibition applied, which meant you couldn’t buy any liquor within the town borders. You were allowed to take your six-pack to your room if you had bought it from a liquor store outside town or you could take a bottle of wine with you when you went to a restaurant. But the establishment itself was not allowed to offer it.
Liquor still seemed to remain a problem. The local AA meeting point was on the main street and seemed to get frequent visitors. I photographed it mostly for the field flowers in the window, and another time I even saw a cowboy going in there. One of the few figures in my photos ...
ABOVE: "Star," Odessa, Texas, 1983.
By contrast, the “Cowboy Bar” was located somewhere out of town, or in one of the surrounding places. I no longer remember.
I could only look through the window at the long, wooden bar, covered in a thick layer of dust.
ABOVE: "Immobile Home," Midland, Texas, 1983.
Not unlike Travis’s father, I must admit, I was fascinated by the name of the town, which showed up everywhere, and by the flagrant contrast between this “Paris” and the small-town Texan atmosphere.
That was probably my only reason for photographing the police sports club, a music store or a stationer’s.
ABOVE: "Paris Front Lawn," 2001.
My Plaubel Makina, that I had with me during my photography trip in 1983—and which was instrumental for my later career as a photographer—had died on me during my visit to Paris. The winding mechanism jammed, and I was only able to repair the camera later. Which is why these images of Paris in Texas are not in a 6x7 format; like all of the photos in the first section in of this book, but were taken by using a Fuji 6 x 4.5 which is a slightly longer format.
ABOVE: "Violin Shop No2," 2001.
I left out several photos that were in the first issue edition of the book and that I no longer felt were so important so I could add these new photos and the chapter on Paris in Texas.
D.A.P./DISTRIBUTED ART PUBLISHERS
Hbk, 9.75 x 9 in. / 108 pages / 58 color.