Constellation Cafe Books : August Sanders – Face of our Time

If there is one photographer who makes objectivity look amazingly beautiful, its August Sanders. A master of portrait photography, his work has a feeling like no other. His approach normalizes his subjects and they appear equally, in neat little boxes. And why does he do that? His approach sets a baseline for the subjects through comparative study. And through this study emerges a point of view which is beyond lectures and theories, it brings out not only an understanding of these people but an understanding of ourselves.

“Odd Job Man”

The book, was first published in 1929 with 60 portraits from Sanders. The terrible part is in 1936, in the Nazi rule, many of his photographic plates from the book were destroyed. Luckily Sanders moved from Cologne to a rural area, allowing him to save most of his negatives.

On first looks, the book is softcover without a dust jacket. The cover is plain white with the iconic potrait “odd job man”, a boy-ish looking man holding up bricks in sunlight. The copy I have (I don’t know if there is a bigger copy) is small, about 8×10″. All of Sanders work has been shot with a large format camera and the tiny print size really doesn’t do justice to the prints. Yes the printing quality is good but there is so much information to be salvaged in those plates, it would be great to see these images printed bigger.

My favorite image by Sanders, “Young Farmers”
Mother & Daughter of Farmer & Miner

I was reading about the book on amazon and I really liked how they described the book “The author has not approached this immense self-imposed task from an academic standpoint, nor with scientific aids, and has received advice neither from racial theorists nor from social researchers. He has approached his task as a photographer from his own immediate observations of human nature and human appearances, of the human environment, and with an infallible instinct for what is genuine and essential.”

An amazing book to add to your library because its a viewpoint which so many of us tend to loose out on, specially in documentary photography. Its focused, its clear and it looks beyond the superficial layers which sometimes exists in the visual art form.


3 thoughts on “Constellation Cafe Books : August Sanders – Face of our Time

    1. I saw Moushumi Ghosh’s comment on today’s post and remembered that you inspired me to buy this book. It arrived from England just before Christmas. It is an inspirational volume. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the images from the book. Happy New Year, Akshay!

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