August Sander: German People 1910-1934

August Sander (1876-1964) was the most significant of German photographers in the first half of this century. From 1910 until 1934, he vigorously pursued a visual documentation project: “Citizen of the 20th Century.” His ambitious portrait series was intended to make viewers aware of the social and cultural dimensions as well as the stratifications of real life.

During military service, August Sander was an assistant in a photographic studio in Trier; he then spent the following two years working in various studios elsewhere. By 1904 he had opened his own studio in Linz, Austria, where he met with success. He moved to a suburb of Cologne in 1909 and soon began to photograph the rural farmers nearby. Around three years later Sander abandoned his urban studio in favor of photographing in the field, finding subjects along the roads he travelled by bicycle.

The performers of a travelling circus.

A small brother and sister, in their best clothes to be photographed.

A smartly-dressed young Jewish man.

A young woman modestly dressed, her hair tightly braided.

Child, dog, and bicycle. Taken in a rural district.

A modern artist, posing in front of her work in progress.

A faming family with their oxen.

This is a bricklayer’s labourer, carrying bricks in a frame.

The passing nun was happy to pose for him.

A stern looking man on a deserted city street.

This father brought his sons to be photographed with him. They look undernourished.

Children in the countryside with a prize sheep.

Serious young boys, immaculately dressed.

A working-class woman with her baby.

The farmer sowing seed in his field.

A young woman captured at her window.

Two sisters, possibly twins.

This man is living on the city streets, but is still quite smartly-dressed.

Three sisters on a city corner.

47 thoughts on “August Sander: German People 1910-1934

  1. (1) At least they all got off the elephant for the photo.
    (2) Simple observations: The girl is happy; the boy is sad. They both wear same or similar shoes and socks. She has bows in her hair; he has a bow tie.
    (3) I hope the “smartly-dressed young Jewish man” was smart enough to leave Germany before the rise of the Third Reich.
    (4) I hope the young woman with braided hair escaped her air-raided town during the next world war.
    (5) That child has obviously outgrown his bicycle. He needs a DKW (and a sidecar for the dog).
    (6) At first, I thought the painting depicted the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock. But the clothes and the horses shot down that notion. I wonder what event the painting depicts?
    (7) Overheard:
    Neighboring farmer: “Olly olly oxen free?”
    Father: “No, but I can offer you a free cup of coffee.”
    (8) The three little pigs discovered that houses made of straw and sticks don’t hold up well, so they hired a bricklayer. Ironically, he hailed from Wolfsburg.
    (9) For a nun that’s passing, she looks perfectly healthy and full of life.
    (10) A stern man wearing a bow tie? At least he’s decked out in fine clothing.
    (11) The boys are undernourished because their plump papa keeps stealing the fries out of their Happy Meal.
    (12) A sheep in the countryside with its prize children. (This comment didn’t come as a surprise. Ewe knew.)
    (13) They may be immaculately dressed, but those aren’t Syria’s young boys.
    (14) There’s something interesting on the clothesline. It looks like a festive sweater for a turkey. Is there a photo of the turkey dressing? I’m hungry for an answer!
    (15) Will the farmer reap what he sows?
    (16) A young woman was captured at her window. Did the abductor inside the house ever send a ransom note?
    (17) The two sisters are fans of Dick Tracy. They’re both wearing a 2-way wrist radio.
    (18) That man is not living on the streets. He’s living on the sidewalks (pavements?). In any event, he’s underfed, so there’s no need for him to curb (kerb?) his appetite.
    (19) Three young socialites: Magda, Eva, and Zsa Zsa.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great pictures. You could make up stories for all of them. Those two skinny boys and their tubby father…something not right there. As someone else commented…wonder what happened to them all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Pete! There’s always something to ponder. I wonder what happened to the modern artist, I wonder why the father looks so well fed and the kids malnourished, I wonder why the street was so utterly isolated except the man, and I wonder why the girl in the window would look in such misery while the portrait was being shot.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly right, Dorothy. Did the circus troupe survive the war? Did the girl with tight braided hair get married? And how many of those young boys ended up in the Hitler Youth? Ponder away! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

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