Write a 200-word reflective commentary on Sander's 7 category system and briefly discuss the implications of his classification system within the socio-cultural content of the time. Make connections with contemporary practice such as that of Zed Nelson, if appropriate.
There are numerous papers in the Tate archives that are free to access, providing very detailed and useful background information - this includes a half dozen on Sander.
The J P Getty Museum
"Despite Sander's dedication over five decades to the idea and compilation of this portrait atlas of the German people, the project remained unfinished. Nonetheless, his photographs remain compelling, in part because he chose to categorise his subjects by profession or social class. The images are thus representations of types, as he intended them to be, rather than portraits of individuals". This site provides a very good description of the individuals captured in each of Sander's categories.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Philippe de Montebello, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commented: 'Endowed with extraordinary observational powers and heroic determination, August Sander has left us with a compelling collective portrait of the German people during one of the most turbulent periods in their history. These powerful images, with their combination of unflattering objectivity and sympathy for the human condition, exerted a profound influence on later generations of photographers, among them the Americans Walker Evans and Diane Arbus'."
"His portrait images were grouped into seven categories, which, in and of themselves, reveal Sander's views of the German social order." This site provides additional background to Sanders and his 'life's work'.
UTATA Tribal Photography - Sunday Salon with Greg Fallis
"Sander, like many of that era, believed in the faux-science of physiognomy—the belief that a person’s physical appearance reflects character or personality. "More than anything else," Sander wrote, "physiognomy means an understanding of human nature.” By photographing people he encountered and classifying them according to [his] seven broad archetypal categories, Sander believed he would create a scientific, visual account of the nation’s social order." This site provide more in terms of interpretation of social status and standing in Germany at the time of Sander's photographic project. It discusses the seeming lack of impact the war on Sander's approach to his project and its impact on the individuals. Regardless of the disruption to Germany and the harrowing effect the war had in individuals and their way of life, Sander's was only interested in 'capturing' his archetype - banker last week, labourer this week, it made no odds.
World Socialist Web Site
After moving to Cologne, Sander's travelled to the farming districts of Westerwald, familiar from his youth, and began photographing the people and the place. This transition had profound consequences, in that, his work became as much a photographic project as it did a socio-cultural study. Around the same time, the countries in Europe were thrown into a power struggle, that would eventually result in World War 1. This had fundamental and far reaching implications for Germany's political and social stability, including the breakdown of the relations of the class system.
The son of a carpenter, from a farming and mining community, Sander's understanding of the relations of the class system were defined by his background and the circles in which he moved. "Society was thought to develop cyclically, beginning with the farmers, who in their closeness to nature were endowed with special wisdom, upwards through the craftsmen whose pride in tools and handiwork kept them in touch with honest values, on from the village economy to the metropolis, which in spite of, or perhaps because of its greater wealth and complexity inexorably led to degeneration expressed by the lost and rootless souls of the Last People. After this fall, a return to the soil and redemption was anticipated."
Hence, his early portraits of farmers emphasize the characteristics that made them a universal archetype for mankind: weather-beaten, but resilient; neither blissfully bucolic nor absolutely ravaged by the elements.
Sander said, “A successful photo is only a preliminary step toward the intelligent use of photography... I cannot show [my work] in a single photo, nor in two or three; after all, they could as well be snapshots. Photography is like a mosaic that becomes synthesis only when it is presented en masse.”