Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Andrew Rose on August Sander

After my art history Bachelor's, I was archiving vintage photographs in a gallery in California and this came across my desk:

Circus People, 1930. Gelatin silver print. 21 x 25.5 cm.

I became suddenly dizzy.

Years later, I learned the fashion photographer for whom I was working in New York found this inspirational in creating an early campaign:

Young Farmers, 1913. Gelatin silver print. 29.7 x 22.1 cm.

My heart stopped.

A decade passed before, when researching a lecture in Hawaii, I saw this:

High School Student, Cologne, 1926. Gelatin silver print. 28.1 x 17.7 cm.

It was, and remains, at once so familiar and fresh I was breath-taken at August Sander's timeless aesthetic.

I tried to reconcile my thrill from looking at his work with Sander's choosing to remain in Germany during World War II even after the Nazis destroyed thousands of plates of his negatives from which the above remarkably survived.

I began to understand that, somehow, the bittersweetness of loss and compromise and promise and defeat is merely one major source of beauty shot through these portraits, and I asked myself:

"How often, in any century, in the face of political antagonism and moral hopelessness, financial crises and gross inequalities, does any kind of artist come along who succeeds in composing like this, with such purpose and determination, inspiration and influence?"

Andrew Rose directs Andrew Rose Gallery.

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