Sunday, 1 July 2018

August Sander: Men Without Masks

August Sander - Self-Portrait, 1956

"I never made a person look bad. They do that themselves." 
Agust Sander

To Savile Row to catch this fascinating series of August Sander portraits of people at large in German society between 1910 and 1931.This series of works were an attempt by Sander to record and classify the people of Germany according to social type in a vast project entitled People of the Twentieth Century. All classes from humble farm labourers, to German business men and aristocracy were captured by his lens in a project which was to occupy most of his life until an intervention by the Nazis and a studio fire forced him to abandon the endeavour for landscape photography. In a world that has changed dramatically since these photographs were taken it is interesting to see how the sitters express their personality and social standing through pose, clothing, and setting, and how Sander manages to capture the humanity in the sitters without being judgemental.

The images which intrigued me most were the Aviator of 1920 above, which is so beautifully composed and captured. The image of the Nazi soldier staring boldly into the camera, taken around 1940, and the black people captured by Sander in Germany of the period below were also fascinating. You cannot help but question the fate of them all. Did the soldier fully embrace Nazi ideology and willfully carry out the atrocities of the regime? Was the fate of the blacks and gypsy carnival folk pictured, the same as those unfortunate Jews whose destiny led them to the concentration camps? This is a really intriguing photographic exhibition (one of many in London at present), which raises many questions.

August Sander: Men Without Masks
until 28th July
Hauser and Wirth 
23 Savile Row