Exercise:B&W portraits as a documentary strategy

Read the information that accompanied August Sander’s exhibition People of the 20th Century at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Core resources : ASander-SFMOMA.pdf

Write a 200-word reflective commentary on Sander’s seven -category system. Briefly discuss the implication within the socio-cultural context of the time. Make connections with contemporary practice such as that of Zed Nelson , if appropriate.

Between 1910 and 1934 Sander travelled across Germany with the aim of chronicling modern German society through posed portraits of a broad spectrum of its citizens.

Sander’s seven categories:
The Farmer
The Skilled Tradesman
The Woman
Classes and Professions
The Artists
The City
The Last People.

Each of the seven categories included subjects with representative similarities. Within each category Sander’s egalitarian viewpoint becomes apparent , both the bricklayer and industrialists share the status of Skilled Tradesmen. The final group , The Last People included within its category the elderly, those with disabilities (physical and mental ) , the homeless , beggars etc , the most vulnerable section of society , this last group is especially poignant. Due to the rise of Hitler , the Third Reich and the political agenda of the Nazi Party the socially disadvantaged immortalised by Sander’s images were unlikely to survive. Sander himself was viewed with suspicion , his democratic view of what constituted German citizenship did not match that of the Nazis. Consequently his glass plates were destroyed , but luckily the negatives survived.

Zed Nelson’s project Disappearing Britain bears similarities to Sander’s People of the 20th Century and I like the straightforward portraits very much . Basic information accompanies the images , name , occupation , year , shot in B&W with the subject looking directly at the camera. Unlike People of the 20th Century Nelson’s subjects are not categorised into such wide-ranging social groups but simply by their occupation , Cornish Fisherman , Shipbuilders , Boxers , World War 2 Veterans, Yorkshire Miners , and Fox Hunters , trades fast becoming extinct.

References / Bibliography

Accessed 8/3/2015
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Accessed 8/3/2015
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