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August Sander

Artist 199

August Sander


Documentary Photography

August Sander (1876 – 1964) was a German portrait and documentary photographer. He has been described as "the one of the most important German portrait photographers of the early twentieth century."

He was the son of a carpenter who learned about photography by assisting a photographer who was working for a mining company. He spent his military service as a photographer's assistant wandering across Germany.

In 1911, Sander began with the first series of portraits for his work People of the 20th Century. In the early 1920s, he came in contact with the Cologne Progressives a radical group of artists linked to the workers' movement which, as Wieland Schmied put it, "sought to combine constructivism and objectivity, geometry and object, the general and the particular, avant-garde conviction and political engagement, and which perhaps approximated most to the forward looking of New Objectivity [...] ".

In 1927, Sander travelled through Sardinia for three months, where he took around 500 photographs.

Sander's book Face of our Time was published in 1929. In this series, he aims to show a cross-section of society during the Weimar Republic. The series is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People (homeless persons, veterans, etc.). By 1945, Sander's archive included over 40,000 images.

Under the Nazi regime, his work and personal life were greatly constrained. His book was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed.

Around 1942, during World War II, he left allowing him to save most of his negatives. His studio was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid.

Thirty thousand of Sander's roughly forty-thousand negatives survived the war, only to perish in an accidental fire in Cologne in 1946. Sander practically ceased to work as a photographer after World War II.

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