Photography inspires much of what we do here at Sydney’s. It provides a rare glimpse into other cultures, from around the world and from the past. It helps us keep a fresh perspective on fashion and most importantly — our own culture.
One of our favourite photographers is August Sander. Born in 1876, August’s professional career began as a miner. He worked as a miner for 7 years until he began studying painting in Dresden. The techniques and visual language he learned during this time would leave an indelible mark on his work as a photographer.
He opened his first studio in 1904, the Studio August Sander für Kunstphotographie und Malerei. He later sold this in 1909 to return to Cologne, where he worked from his own studio in Lindenthal.
His first major project dealt with class and how that impacts identity. He developed this theme as he photographed avant-garde artists, communists, circus performers, bankers, the unemployed, and members of Parliament; all with the same detached approach allowing each subject to define themselves for the camera.
“Nothing is more hateful to me than photography sugar-coated with gimmicks, poses and false effects,” wrote August Sander in 1927. “Let me speak the truth in all honesty about our age.”
August’s views on class inadvertently placed him at odds with the Nazis, so between 1933 and 1939, his work was put on hold as he focused on themes of the city of Cologne and the Rhine countryside. His studio was demolished by a bombing in 1944, over 40,000 negatives were destroyed. In spite of this rather major setback, he continued work in relative obscurity until L Fritz Gruber, a curator and collector convinced the city of cologne to purchase a large collection of views of the city for the Stadtmuseum.
Only recently has August Sander’s importance been acknowledged. Through his honest portrayal of his subject matter, he produced a stunning body of work which provides a very accurate reflection of the time and place he occupied.