August Sander

"I cannot show [my work] in a single photo, nor in two or three... Photography is like a mosaic that becomes synthesis only when it is presented en masse."

- August Sander, 1951

August Sander was a German photographer. Part of "Neue Sachlichkeit", or New objectivity, an avant-garde movement which favored objectivity, precision, and the exploration of new ways of looking at familiar subjects, he was unflinching in his portraits of Germany citizenry.

Born in Herdorf, a village east of Cologne, Sander had early hopes of becoming a painter, but owing to his family's limited financial resources he spent the first eight years of his working life as a miner. Interestingly it was during this time that he took up photography as a hobby. Following his childhood ambition he studied painting in Dresden from 1901 - 1902. Two years later, after having worked for a variety of photographers, Sander opened his own photo studio in Linz. Subsequent to serving in World War I he moved his studio and settled permanently in Cologne. There he quickly became acquainted with painters and photographers committed to the art movement "Neue Sachlichkeit", or New objectivity.

Sander is best known for his epic project "Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts" (People of the twentieth century). In which he systematically photographed the faces of people who represented various strata of German society - peasants and professionals, as well as the insane and destitute. The National Gallery of Canada's collection contains an extremely rare set of one portfolio of the project titled "Der Bauer ("the Farmer") Farmer's Wife . Sanders portrait Heinrich Hoerle (1895-1936) exemplifies the tenets of the New Objectivity,

Because Sander's approach to portraiture and to class division eschewed both the sentimental and the heroic, it did not meet with the approval of officials representing the Third Reich. In 1936 copies of the introduction to "People of the Twentieth Century" were seized and the printing plates destroyed. Sander would turn to rural landscapes and nature subjects during this turbulent political time, however he would return to his portrait survey in the waning years of World War II.

The Federal Republic of Germany awarded Sander the Order of Merit in 1960. In 1964 he received the culture prize of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie. Five years later the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted a retrospective of the Artist's work and in 1986 Sander's son Gunther, published part of his father's archive of photographs.