August Sander’s Greedy Eye

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” In the fake news era, a time when obvious lies can sway elections, it seems odd to think that the truth might actually be the most powerful weapon. But it was threatening enough in inter-war Germany to get August Sander’s photographs banned by the Nazis.

What he did was simple: he took pictures of everyone, naturally, untouched. He documented everyday people at work or at home or walking the streets. Unglamorous, unfetishised, just real, just the truth. And it was unacceptable.

There are homeless people on these walls, amputees, farmers, doctors, soldiers, rich, poor, beautiful, ugly. Sander wanted to create a ‘Portfolio of Archetypes’, a visual dictionary of everyday people.

To modern eyes some of it is a little problematic – the use of the word ‘cretin’ to describe a dwarf, for example – and there’s a coldness to his lens, something a little brutal and unflinching.  But with that comes an openness and drive – Sander really just wanted to document absolutely everything.

The fact that it got banned feels shocking. They’re just photos of people. The Nazis thought Sander’s work showed too much ugliness, too much depravation, too much weakness. But maybe it proves that the greatest weapon we have in the fight against tyranny is the truth, pure and simple.


from Time Out London – What’s on – Exhibitions – Photography – August Sander, a pioneer of photography.


About Wilson

relentless hunter gatherer of soothing beauty, great and small
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