Tag Archives: august sander

August Sander – A Postscript

In my earlier post discussing August Sander’s comprehensive study of German ‘types’ made in the first half of the 20th century, I limited myself to the sixty plates included in the 1929 book, Face of our Time at least in part because this was the only part of Sander’s wider project where he had been in complete control of how it was presented.

As I looked for copies of the images I wanted to use to illustrate my post, I realised that the pictures included in the book had often been cropped from wider – sometimes much wider – original images. For example, the Shepherd – Pl.2 in the book –  has been cropped down from a wider composition, concentrating the picture’s depiction of it’s subject’s lined face and removing extraneous detail.

fig.1 – Unemployed (pl.60) as shot

Mostly, the cropping of the images for publication simply concentrates the meaning of the original, but, in at least one instance – Unemployed (Pl.60) – the effect is completely changed. Continue reading

August Sander and Typology

‘What did August Sander (1876-1964) tell his sitters before he took their pictures? And how did he say it so they all believed him in the same way? […] Did he simply say that  their photographs were going to be a recorded part of history? And did he refer to history in such a way that their vanity  and shyness dropped away, so that they looked into the lens , telling themselves, using a strange historical sense, “I looked like this”?’

– John Berger (1979)


The more I look at August Sander’s photographs of people in Germany at the start of the 20th century, the less certain I become of what exactly it is that I’m meant to be looking at. If – as Sander claimed – they form a cross-section of a society, it is not a society that I have personally experienced. 

All my examples are taken from the 1994 reissue of Face of Our Time. Sander died in April 1964, a month after I was born; time has moved on and if I wish to pick up on signifiers that would have been shared by Germans of Sander’s generation, Looking at his pictures, I must act as a historical detective, not as a member of that ‘Our’ in the title.

Continue reading