In a year where photography seems to be omnipresent in the capital yet again the unexpected opportunity to see August Sanders 1930s work from the People of the Twentieth Century project is unrivalled. The importance of Sander’s project cannot be underestimated, the typographic approach creating portfolios that categorised German society influenced photographers such as Diane Arbus, Dawoud Bey, Mary Ellen Mark and Katy Grannam.
Sander begun in earnest in1911 and continued over the next 50 years, this set were shot during the 1930s rise of the Weimar Republic. This iteration of the project was originally printed and prepared by Sander’s son Gunther for a 1973 show at the Mannhiemer Kunstverein in Germany to reflect the book publication of ‘Men Without Masks’ and have not been seen together since. The show includes iconic images such as The Farmers and chillingly a soldier in full uniform. Sanders egalitarian work did not accrue favour with the politically incumbent Socialist Nationalist Party as it recorded all levels of society including those that did not conform to Arian doctrines such as Jews, gypsies and homosexuals.
The copies of the original book ‘Face of our Time’ and related printing plates where seized and systematically destroyed during 1936 in an attempt to remove all visual record of undesirables. A portent for later horrors. These stunning, well printed large scale photographs are a moving testament to one man’s belief in beauty of the human condition in all its forms; clearly conceived and shot with due reverence to the sanctity of the subjects being, a message that is sorely needed again in the early 21st century. Unmissable.