‘I WAKE UP HAPPY! I’M SINGING ALL DAY’
Werner Herzog occupies a unique position in the modern cultural landscape. The German auteur has directed 75 films, at a rate of more than one a year, amassing a body of work that is esoteric, wide-ranging, ecstatic and often disturbing. Born in Munich in 1942, Herzog encountered the reality of human violence at less than two weeks old, when allied bombs destroyed the next-door house and buried his cot in debris. Fleeing the violence, his mother resettled them in the furthest reaches of the Bavarian Alps, shaping the director’s preoccupation with extraordinary landscapes, where the beauty and brutality of nature meet. Celebrated initially for his feature films including Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, Herzog has since become equally known for documentaries such as Grizzly Man and Into the Abyss, which, like his earlier work, often deal with misfits, obsessives and outsiders facing the extremes of human experience. At the age of 81, the film-maker and occasional actor, with recent roles including a galactic space villain in The Mandalorian, is now publishing his first comprehensive memoir, Every Man for Himself and God Against All. If you have a burning question for the prolific director, this is a rare chance to see it answered. To submit a question, email email@example.com or tweet @ObsNewReview by 3pm 20 September In 1986, Nick Waplington began documenting the lives of families on the Broxtowe council estate in Nottingham where his grandad had lived for 50 years. His first book, Living Room, gave the viewer a front-row seat to the chaotic world of a neighbour called Janet and her life-loving kids and friends. Some saw the pictures as exploitative. A Guardian critic suggested that Waplington, “had gone visiting the natives to bring back news of their exotic doings and strange gear”. The novelist Irvine Welsh responded in defence of Waplington’s project, writing: “There is no voyeuristic intrusion in this work. You see Nick appearing – as much a subject as anyone else – in his cluttered, crowded pictures, engaging in the mucking about…” Waplington followed Living Room with a book that focused on Janet and her new partner, Clive, and their wedding day; pictures, including this one, that are included in a new retrospective book of his work, Comprehensive. Looking back on those images now, Waplington tells me that, when it came to the wedding, he was the obvious choice as photographer. “There is a certain element of voyeurism in all documentary photography,” he says, “but I was trying to work with the people in my pictures long term. They became very relaxed around me and so some of the scenes are quite hardcore.” He distrusted, he says, that tradition of photographing families like Janet’s in grainy black and white, “to make them look miserable in damp houses”. His experience, he says, “was something more positive… I just enjoyed being with them”. This particular picture came towards the close of a long day that had begun in early-morning excitement and dressing up, and which was ending in the pub on Alfreton Road in Nottingham, a couple of doors down from where he was living. “I had no choice but to stay to the bitter end,” he says.