August Sander (17 November 1876, Herdorf, Rhine Province – 20 April 1964) was a German portrait and documentary. Sander’s first book Face of our Time was published in 1929. Sander has been described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century.”
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 (1897–99) as a photographer’s assistant and the next years wandering across Germany. In 1901, he started working for a photo studio in Linz, Austria, eventually becoming a partner (1902), and then its sole proprietor (1904). He left Linz at the end of 1909 and 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 Group of Progressive Artists (Kölner Progressive) in Cologne, a group as Wieland Schmied put it, “sought to combine constructivism and objectivity, geometry and object, the general and the particular, avant-garde conviction and political engagement, and which perhaps approximated most to the forward looking of New Objectivity […] “. In 1927, Sander and writer Ludwig Mathar travelled through Sardinia for three months, where he took around 500 photographs. However, a planned book detailing his travels was not completed.
Sander’s Face of our Time was published in 1929. It contains a selection of 60 portraits from his series People of the 20th Century.