Travel, culture and communication

Archive for May, 2012


The goal of August Sander (1876-1964) was… “to create a collective portrait of German society during the Weimar era, a truthful outline of the existing social order. With the systematic methodology of a social scientist, Sander assembeld in front of his lens individuals from all walks of life – peasants, clergymen, painters, bureaucrats, gypsies, secretaries, bricklayers, nuns, clerks, the unemployed, and the mentally ill – representing them in their daily environments or against neutral studio backdrops. He divided the portraits into seven sections comprising a total of forty-five portfolios, ordering them sequentially to make the existing social order visible. Each section addressed a specific population group: farmers, workers, women, professionals, artists, and city dwellers. His enormous archive ended with “The Last People”, those on the fringes of society: the handicapped, sick and dying.”

In Focus, August Sander. Photographs from the J Paul Getty Museum. (2000)

I have always been fascinated by attempts to impose order on complex human life. Sander meticulously documents typologies, but at the same time, each individual stares out at you from a personal world too mysterious to ignore.

The following photographers appeal to me for the same reason. There is order and there is individuality, facelessness and identity. Jim Naughten’s “Re-enactors” portrait project documents people who come from all over the world to simulate WW1 and WWll battles in a field in Kent. Dressed in authentic war apparel, they re-enact the war. Bill Kouwenhoven (foreward to Naughten’s book) suggests that ” Naughten deliberately provides us with almost nothing of the real lives of the persons he photographs, but rather he present us with images of people pretending to be soldeirs or sailors who have just re-staged various battles… Naughten invites us to ask “Who are these people?” and “What makes them tick”?

Jan Banning’s Bureaucrats are united in a pursuit, divided by “culture” and identity. Simply by observing their environments in the minutest detail, their lives reveal themselves to us. We are similar, we are different.