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November 6, 2021

Vintage Portraits Taken by German Photographer August Sander From Between the 1910s and 1940s

August Sander (1876–1964) was a German portrait and documentary photographer. While working at a local mine, Sander first learned about photography by assisting a photographer who was working for a mining company. With financial support from his uncle, he bought photographic equipment and set up his own darkroom. He spent his military service as a photographer's assistant and the next years wandering across Germany. Sander started working for a photo studio in Linz in 1901 but left at the end of 1909 to set up a new studio in Cologne.

In 1911, Sander began with the first series of portraits for his work “People of the 20th Century”. In the early 1920s, he came in contact with the Cologne Progressives, a radical group of artists linked to the workers' movement. Under the Nazi regime, Sander’s work and personal life were greatly constrained. His book “Face of our Time”, which was published in 1929 and contained a selection of 60 portraits from his series People of the 20th Century, was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed. 

Sander's work includes landscape, nature, architecture, and street photography, but he is best known for his portraits, as exemplified by his series “People of the 20th Century”. In this series, he aims to show a cross-section of society during the Weimar Republic. The series is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People. He has been described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century”.

Take a look through these 19 extraordinary portraits by Sander from the 1910s to 1940s:

Three generations of the family

Farm children


Police officer

Middle class children

Young mother

Circus worker

Zirkusartisten Circus artists

Girl in fairground caravan

Pastry cook

Workmen in the Ruhr region

Café waitress

The Dadaist Raoul Hausmann with Hedwig Mankiewitz and Vera Broïdo



Blind children at their lessons


“Test Your Strength” showman



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