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Wim Wenders' photos of strange and quiet places

By Laura Allsop for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • German auteur Wim Wenders says to take great photos, turn off your cell phone
  • Exhibition of large-format photos of "Places, Strange and Quiet" on in London
  • Photos taken in Armenia, Sicily, United States among others
  • Location plays big part in many of Wenders' films like "Paris, Texas," and "Wings of Desire"

London, England (CNN) -- The secret to shooting great images? Going off the grid, according to German filmmaker Wim Wenders.

A prerequisite of capturing revealing images, he said, is to be alone and without a cell phone.

"If you stand somewhere and you get phone calls and you have a schedule, or this and that, you just become a tourist and that is the worst danger to a photographer," he said.

The director, known for his innovative camera work on films, is also an avid photographer of still images.

A selection of his large-format photographs are currently being shown at London's Haunch of Venison gallery in an exhibition titled "Places, Strange and Quiet."

Wenders' love of roaming can be seen in his road movies of the 1970s and '80s, in which his characters -- from the protagonist in "Alice in the Cities" to the mysterious lead in "Paris, Texas" -- often drift from place to place.

If you stand somewhere and you get phone calls and you have a schedule, or this and that, you just become a tourist and that is the worst danger to a photographer
--Wim Wenders
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The same comes through in his photography work, which capture strange and quiet places around the globe, including a street corner in Montana; an abandoned ferris wheel in a field in Armenia; an empty submarine factory in an undisclosed location; a Moscow courtyard; and a vacated open-air cinema in Sicily.

"Well, I do travel a lot and I like to get to a place I've never been and I like to get lost," the auteur said, while in London for the opening of the exhibition.

Though they are often vacant, there are nonetheless traces of people and civilization in all of them.

"I have to be able to have a conversation with the place," said Wenders of his photographing method. "Then it tells me stories and then I listen and I can be attentive and I can see details and I can sense the history and a story and that is what I am after."

His films, he said, tend to have that same intention, and location plays a large part in them, ranging from Berlin in "Wings of Desire," the Texan landscape in "Paris, Texas," and Lisbon in "Lisbon Story."

"But then in the course of every movie, you have character and you have your story and the place that was so much in the beginning, the essential thing, slowly steps into the background," he said.

What he finds so enchanting about photography is the fact that "nothing interferes, nothing overlays the home story and the place can exist in a much more purist sense."

Sometimes he can find space and pace in the middle of a city; sometimes in a country he has never visited before and about which he knows little.

Wenders' interest in expansive space can be traced to his latest cinematic offering, which boldly explores the 3D landscape. The film, entitled "Pina," is a 3D celebration of the life and works of the late German choreographer Pina Bausch.