August Sander (Herdorf 1876-1967 Cologne), who, with his pictorial collection “Anlitz der Zeit” and his work “Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts” which allegedly characterized photography´s history, was one of the most significant photographers of his time. Through his conceptual workstyle and the concentration of his documentation-like photos, which he used as artistic expression material, Sander counts as an example to following generations.
August Sander´s “wonder years”
August Sander did not receive a classical education in photography, but rather he practised the art in his home village, Herdorf in his earlier years as an amateur and went on to continue this practise towards the end of the 1890s with the Trier photographer Georg Jung. After the his “wonder years", as he called them, from 1899-1901 during which he extensively became occupied with photographic duties, Sander found refuge in austrian Linz. In Linz Sander followed an exhibition at the Fotografische Kunstanstalt Grief which he then took over and led from 1904 to 1910. Although Sander was a successful professional in Linz as well as an established photographer, he moved back to Germany with his family in 1910 and found a studio in Köln-Lindenthal, which Sander characterizes as a “Werkstätte für künstlerische Heimaufnahmen” (workplace for artistic hometown documentations). Due to the following poor buying situation in the new city or lack thereof, the customer base spread to the country and Sander became a wandering photographer in the Westerwald parallel to his other projects.
August Sander stepped out from his "primarily commercial" art
In Cologne August Sander sprung into the local art scene, and boosted the group “Kölner Progressiven” (Cologne Progressives). Underneath him, Heinrich Hoerle and Franz Wilhelm Seiwert in whose circle he was taken up in 1927 and who greatly influenced his works. While Sander during his Linz years focused primarily on his artistic photographic ambitions, he names his Cologne works as “simply natural” photographies and began his trek with documentational photographs. This is how Sander stepped out in the 1920s from his primarily commercial art and in 1924 put ‘pen to paper’ in his work “Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts” (“20th Century People”). The follow up time of this colossal project alongside another growing long term one, Sander divides his works free from prejudice and those that are realistic of people that speak to his decided concept into different portfolios that might slice a “horizontal cut through our current time and our german folk.” In this long term project, which was growing into a colossal work, Sander creates his comparative portrayals of people to be as close to reality as possible in accordance with a concept that he drew into various portfolios of pictures that bring a “cross section through our time and the german people.”
August Sander’s first exhibition and publication
Cutouts of Sander’s portrait works were exhibited in an originally extremely successful exhibition at the Kölnische Kunstverein (Cologne Art Association). The first publication of his works followed in 1929 with the billboard “Anlitz der Zeit. 60 Aufnahmen von deutschen Menschen” (Faces of our time. 60 depictions of german people). The publication sparked contemporary resonance in many diverse discussions, e.x. by Kurt Tucholsky and Walter Benjamin. Under nationalists, the printing blocks of “Anlitz der Zeit” were destroyed, including the further sales of the book. Sander’s son Erich, member of the 1933 banned SAPD (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands) (Socialist Labor Party of Germany), was arrested and died in jail in 1944 due to an acute cecal infection that was not treated. During the second world war, Sander dedicated his time to countryside photography as well as that of city views.
August Sander´s studio in Kuchhausen
Sander relocated to Kuchhausen in Westerwald in 1944, after his studio, as well as the homes of 25,000 to 30,000 unfortunates were the victims of a bomb attack. This terminated his mid life and the most important part of his archive. Thanks to the suggestion of L. Fritz Gruber, August Sander’s works were shown at the second photokina in 1951. The portfolio ”Köln wie es war” (Cologne as it was) was sold to the city of Cologne in 1953. Sander’s portrayals were found once again in a special edition of the Zurich art newspaper “du” (you) in 1959. In 1962 Sander publicized a´his further and simultaneously last work “Deutschenspiegel. Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts” (German Mirror. 20th Century People). August Sander died in 1964 in Cologne.