August Sander was a German portrait and documentary photographer, he was born on the 17th of November 1876, in Herdorf.

He first learnt about photography while working at a local mine as an assisting photographer. He spent his military service from 1897 10 1899 as a photographer’s assistant. In 1901, Sander started working for a photo studio in Linz. A year later he became a partner and he ended up being the proprietor in 1904. August Sander left Linz in 1909 and set up a new studio in Cologne.

People of the 20th century was Sander’s first projects, which he started in 1911. Nine years later, he started working with a radical group of artists called Cologne Progressives. They were linked to the Workers Movement, a labour movement that consists of the UK trade union movement and US labor union movement. In 1927, August Sander and the writer Ludwig Mathar travelled through Sardinia for three months, where they took around 500 photos. Two years later, Face of our Time was published. The project also contains 60 portraits from People of the 20th century. 

Sander’s son was a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party and he was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to 10 years of prison, however, he died in 1944 before the end of his sentence. In 1936, Face of our Time was seized and the photographic plates were destroyed. During the Second World War, August Sander left Cologne and moved to a rural area in 1942. Unfortunately, two years later his studio was destroyed in a a bombing raid. Some of his negatives were destroyed in the raid but some survived only to be destroyed in a fire in 1946. Sander stopped working as a photographer after World War II. He died on the 20th of April 1964, in Cologne, West Germany, when he was 87 years old.

August Sander is best known for his portraits, even though his work includes landscape, nature, architecture and street photography. In People of the 20th Century, he shows a cross-section of society during the Weimar Republic. His work is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professionals, The Artists, The City and The Last People. By 1945, August Sander’s archive included over 40,000 pictures. In 2002, Susanne Lange published a seven-volume collection that had 650 of Sander’s photos. It was called: August Sander: People of the 20th Century. Six years later, the Mercury crater Sander was named after him.

Resources about August Sander

All the pictures in this page are by August Sander. All rights reserved to the author.

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