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Transcript of August Sander
17 November 1876 – 20 April 1964
Michael Holden & Will Broughton
Impact and legacy
Spends three months in Sardinia with Mathar, returning with over five hundred negatives. The two publish a short article with Sander’s photographs as illustrations to Mathar’s text. Exhibits about one hundred prints at the Cologne Kunstverein as a preview of 'Citizens of the
Art Forms in Nature
(Urformen der Kunst) by Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) and
The World Is Beautiful
(Die Welt ist schön) by Albert Renger-Patzsch (1865-1932), are published.
The year of the Wall Street crash and the ensuing world economic crisis, Sander publishes
Face of the Time
, a book of sixty photographs, at the Kurt Wolff/Transmare Verlag in Munich. The novelist Alfred Döblin writes the introduction. Thomas Mann (1875-1955), winner of the
year’s Nobel Prize in literature, calls the collection of portraits 'a treasure-trove for lovers of physiognomy and an outstanding opportunity for the study of human types as stamped by profession and social class'.
Delivers five radio lectures on the 'Nature and development of Photography' in Cologne.
He is at the pinnacle of his career.
Connects with a group of contemporary painters, the Cologne Progressives, forming close friendships with Heinrich Hoerle and Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, the chief theoretician of the group. Develops plans for a documentary project entitled 'Citizens of the Twentieth Century', a series of about 540 portraits divided into seven groups according to the existing social order, with about 45 portfolios of 12 photographs each. Completes the first folio, focusing on the farmer as the human archetype.
Meets Ludwig Mathar, the author of a book on Italy and several works of fiction. The two plan a volume on Sardinia.
A second son, Gunther, is born.
Participates in the Art and Craft Exhibition in Linz, winning the silver medal. A polio epidemic breaks out; Erich contracts the disease. Sander sends his wife and children back to Trier. He decides to sell his business in Linz and move the family to Cologne.
After a brief stint as the business manager of the portrait studio of 'Blumenberg and Herrmann', Sander opens his own portrait studio in Cologne-Lindenthal. Because business is initially slow, he frequently visits the farms of the nearby Westerwald in search of new clients. Begins to practice what he calls 'exact photography', breaking with the tenets of Pictorialism.
Twins, Helmut and Sigrid, are born; Helmut dies shortly after birth. Moves family to another apartment with a studio at Dürenerstrasse 201.
Exhibits his work at the Berlin Museum of Arts and Crafts and the Werkbund in Cologne. After the outbreak of World War I, serves in the medical corps on the battlefields in Belgium and France. During his absence, Anna runs the studio, taking portrait photographs of soldiers.
Returns home to Cologne and continues his portrait work in the Westerwald.
On July 31st, the National Assembly proclaims the Weimar Republic a constitutional democracy. The Weimar Constitution becomes law on August 14th.
Sander is awarded fourth prize in an international portrait competition organised by the Knapp publishing house in Halle. In his first solo exhibition, shows one hundred large-scale prints at the Landhaus Pavillon in Linz to great critical acclaim.
Serves in the Wilhelmine military in Trier. When off duty, helps out in the studio of the photographer Georg Jung. After completing his stint of service in 1899, travels as a
photographic apprentice to Berlin, Magdeburg, Halle, Leipzig, and Dresden, where he is said to have audited classes in painting at the Royal Academy of Art or the Dresden Academy of Applied Arts.
Accepts his first professional assignment, at the Greif Photographic Studio in Linz, Austria, where he teaches himself the vocabulary of pictorialism and becomes a first-rate art photographer.
Marries Anna Seitenmacher of Trier on September 15th. Enters into a partnership with Franz Stuckenberg to direct the Greif Photographic Studio, renaming it 'Sander and Stuckenberg'.
Receives the bronze medal at the Upper American Regional Exhibition in Linz for his photographs and paintings.
A son, Erich, is born.
Sander was born on November 17th in Herdorf, a small village east of Cologne, Germany. He is one of eight children of August Sander (1846-1906), a mining carpenter, and Justine Jung Sander (1845-1919), the descendant of a long line of local peasants.
Attends the Protestant public school in Herdorf until 1890, when he begins work at the local San Fernando iron ore mine. Meets the photographer Heinrich Schmeck in 1892 and becomes interested in photography. The same year, purchases his first camera with the help of his uncle Daniel Jung and sets up a small darkroom.
Disagreements with Stuckenberg lead to the dissolution of the partnership; Sander becomes the sole proprietor of the business. He is awarded the Müller and Wetzig Prize at the Leipzig Book Fair, a gold medal at Wels, Austria, and the first prize and Cross of Honor at the
International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris.
Experiments with color photography.
On September 1st, World War II breaks out. Sander stores about forty thousand negatives in the basement of his Cologne house to protect them from damage. He begins to move his studio to Kuchhausen, a small village in the Westerwald.
Erich dies in prison shortly before his scheduled release, the cause of death listed as 'unknown'. After the Cologne apartment is destroyed during a bombing raid, Sander moves permanently to Kuchhausen, taking with him ten thousand of the forty thousand negatives preserved in the basement.
The end of World War II leaves Germany a divided country.
A fire in the Cologne basement destroys the remaining thirty thousand negatives. The move to Kuchhausen severely curtails Sander’s living and working conditions and basically ends his career as a commercial photographer. He resumes his work on
Citizens of the Twentieth Century
, sorting through the remnants of his archives, arranging and rearranging old material
for the remainder of his career.
Sander’s work is included in the First Photkina exhibition in Cologne.
The City of Cologne buys Sander’s portfolio
Cologne As It Was
(Köln wie es war), a survey of historic Cologne executed before the war.
Sander’s work is included in Edward Seichen’s
Family of Man
exhibition in New York.
Anna Sander dies.
Becomes an honorary citizen of his hometown, Herdorf.
Receives the Cross of Merit and Cultural Prize of the German Photographic Society.
The portrait album
Mirror of the Germans
is published, presenting eighty of Sander’s pictures. His work is shown in Mexico.
Dies on April 20th in Cologne.
On January 30th, 1933, President Hindenburg names Adolf Hitler chancellor, and the National Socialists assume power in Germany. Sander creates and publishes five folios in the series
German Lands German People
(Deutsche Lande Deutsche Menschen), each introducing a different region of Germany and reflecting various themes: portraits, architecture, landscape, and botanical studies.
His son, Erich, a member of the German Communist Party, is arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced to ten years in prison. Sander, having assisted Erich in the reproduction of Communist leaflets, remains under Nazi suspicion.
The Reich Chamber of Visual Arts orders the publisher’s halftone plates for
Face of the Time
destroyed and all available copies of the book to be confiscated. Sander is forced into internal exile, increasingly focusing his creative energies on landscape photography and botanical studies.
Most famous series of photographs was from
People of the 20th Century
, in which he photographed the variety of the Weimar Republic people.
Categorised in seven sections (The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People).
Also published photographs in
Face of the Time
(1929) and gave a series of radio lectures in 1931 about the history of photography.
Working style involved taking pictures of his subject’s full-length or half-length that were sharp and composed as a portrait.
Also clothed his subject’s in various props and garments which emphasised their career or lifestyle.
Aimed to make the subject’s facial characteristics exclusive to others. Sander was able to show the relation between the subject and their surroundings.
To analyse Sander’s photographs properly, we need to know how the picture speaks to us, which will then determine the person in the image.
For example, in
Three Young Farmers in Sunday Dress
(1914), this showed three people on their way to a dance. Even though they are wearing formal clothes, the landscape, the shoes and rough walking sticks suggest they are peasants.
Three Young Farmers in Sunday Dress
Analysing his work, it is clear that he was searching for truth and ignoring Pictorialism techniques.
Instead, Sander would focus on a ‘straight’ photographic style.
Taking advantage of how the camera is able to record and register social truths.
Alfred Döblin -
“Sander has succeeded in writing sociology not by writing, but by producing photographs”
Walter Benjamin claimed
“Sander's work is more than a picture-book, it is an atlas of instruction”
August Sander -
“Nothing seems better suited than photography to give an absolutely faithful historical picture of our time... We must be able to bear the sight of the truth, but above all, we must transmit it to our fellow human beings and to posterity, regardless of whether this truth is favorable to us or not.”
Overall, August Sander was photographing German society ‘as it was’, which can imply that he was incorporating the ideology of the New Objectivity movement.
Sander’s photographs had a major impact, especially on the Nazi party. He showed the diversity of the German public and did not conform to Nazi ideologies, which was all about the ‘Aryan’ race.
1936, his remaining copies of
Faces of The Time
were destroyed as ordered by the Government Bureau of Fine Arts.
Also, Sander’s series
People of the 20th Century
included the unemployed, disabled and Jews, the type of people the Nazi’s wanted to ‘purify’.
Sander’s working style has been influential to future photographers. Detaching himself from the subject and creating an interesting series of photographs, he influenced the likes of
Bernd and Hilla Becher
who photographed out-of-date technological structures.
Interested by the similar looks these buildings had and how they appeared to have a lot of time and effort put into making them.
Shooting in large format, each photograph was carefully shot with precise settings, and presented in a way that compared the appearance of the buildings. It is clear that the Becher’s working style is akin to Sander.
Becher’s went onto to influence other contemporary photographers like
photographs large, modern public buildings which appear both elegant and ominous.
Despite using digital technology to edit his photographs, he uses it to heighten the image of a subject that exists in the world, rather than create fictional pictures. His style is also very similar to how both he and Sander document their chosen subjects.
Other photographers include
whose photographs of architecture show her interests and ideas about the world. It is almost like her subjects appear as portraits (Sander’s photographic style).
another photographer who documented images of the industrial landscape with strict settings. In his portraits especially, he aimed to show the character of the subject but not the personality.
documented a series of ordinary people. Appeared as unglamorous portraits of his sitters without any expression.
Within these images, Ruff suggested it was impossible to photograph the inner life of a subject, and instead pose them as a democratic, socially based mode of representation. Ruff was questioning the ability of photography like Sander did.
It is clear then that August Sander’s working style is still influential to this day.
"The most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century"
France and Germany
Centre Georges Pompidou
Chicago, Board of Trade II
The Rhine II
Narodni knihovna Praha V
Villa Ghirlanda Cinisello Balsamo Milano I
Masonic temple Philadelphia IV
Teatro Comunale di Carpi I
Via Giovanni Tappia
Hannah Erdrich-Hartmann and Jana-Maria Hartmann, Düsseldorf
The Smith Family, Fife, Scotland
Portrait (I. Graw)
Photography: A Cultural History - Mary Warner Marien
Reading August Sander's Archive - Andy Jones
Thanks for watching!