August Sander, like his bricklayer subject, lived and worked in Germany. Sander began as a miner, later became a photographer, and was eventually recognized as one of the masters of modern photography.
Sander was a realist as well as an artist: He sought objectivity through straightforward portraiture. His great ambition was to create a pictorial survey of the German people in various occupations and socioeconomic backgrounds during the decade prior to World War ll. Both Germany and photography were undergoing great changes during this time. Photography had evolved from being a tool for scientific and documentary purposes to being a creative medium as well.
Sander produced one volume of an intended multivolume work entitled "Antlinz der Zeit" ("Face of Our Time"), which he hoped would represent all 20th-century Europeans. But his presentation of a diverse German society met with disapproval by the Third Reich, and many of the photographic plates were destroyed.
"August Sander: German Portraits (1918-1933)," brings Sander's vision and compassion to a new audience. The show is at the Getty Center in Los Angeles through June 24.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor