August SanderGerman (Herdorf, Germany, 1876 - 1964, Cologne, Germany)
Studienrat (Secondary School Teacher)
During his lifetime, the German photographer Sander witnessed the radical transition of his country from a predominantly agrarian society to a modern nation state. In the 1920s, while working at his portrait studio near Cologne and developing his photographic style, he met a group of painters who called themselves the Cologne Progressives. Involved with radical left-wing politics, the group focused on spare depictions of human figures; they believed that the pictorial organization of artworks, when reflecting the organization of society as a whole, could play a role in restructuring society.
Though less radical than the Cologne Progressives, Sander was interested in their views. It was around this time that he conceived the idea for a visual taxonomy of the German people, never published in full in his lifetime, titled People of the Twentieth Century. This picture was included under the category of trades, classes, and professions. Whereas farmers and general laborers were pictured in their work environments, Sander often presented the educated classes and the wealthy against plain white backdrops. In this plain setting, the viewer notices such details as clothing and pose.