Menschen Ohne Maske (Men without masks); August Sander (1876-1964)

In July 2018 I was fortunate enough to view the work of August Sander, at Hauser & Wirth, London, the Exhibition; ‘Men without masks’ 

“Let me speak the truth in all honesty about our age and the people of our age.”

If you’ve never heard of August Sander let me start by saying he was one of the greatest photographers of the 20th Century; Born into a peasant family east of Cologne Germany, He was to become a pioneer for the world of portraiture photography, producing his magnum opus ‘people of the 20th century’  it would become if not the most of important bodies of work in photography, The most important piece of  photographic work of the 20th century, creating an index of faces from the Weimar era,  a face that in time would change, with the coming of WWII

The exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, London, is the first time this body of work has been shown together since its initial exhibition in 1973, organised by sanders son; Gunther (1907 – 1987).  Its not short of a miracle that any of the photos exist,  ‘Menschen Ohne Maske’ is a celebration of the diversity of the German identity, that dates back to 1910, unfortunately the Nazi Party frowned upon such societal representations and had Sander’s work destroyed, fortunately for us living  in today’s world many of the negatives where kept hidden enabling us to peer into the past and admire Sanders sympathetic eye towards his subjects; portraying bohemians, shopkeepers, intellectuals, philosophers, farmers, bakers, boxers and many more archetypes of the Weimar era

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Inside the gallery; Sanders Prints had been curated beautifully, formal and sleek, the space feels diverse, edgy, yet calm. The Prints framed and mounted in a way I have never seen; oversized prints on glossy paper, with a 2inch white, mounted border, the mount itself 2cm thick which really helps portray the importance of the historical work the viewer is looking at.

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The walls painted a heritage green also adds to aesthetic of the space, on walking into the space the curator meets me with some information about Sander and his work, followed by a sequence of portrait photographs all the same size showing the diversity of contemporary Germany through the eyes of Sander leading me to slowly look at the subject in each photograph, the detail helping me consider the person the place the time.

https://www.hauserwirth.com/hauser-wirth-exhibitions/14504-august-sander-men-without-masks?modal=media-player&mediaType=film&mediaId=20550

While viewing a photograph or a series of photographs I initially inspect the details, I think about the person in the created image,  how the image was created, what approach the photographer took, what questions did he or she ask the person that stood before them, then I go away and let it all sink in, it is only after the work truly reveals itself to me, and Sander has revealed something to me of which I’ve always been drawn to, its the social mask that we all wear,  I have always been interested in ‘The Mask’, I worked with my friend Oliva in 2014, to which I started considering ‘The Mask’, In sanders work, the mask has become more evident than ever the social mask is always revealed as the camera never lies, it reveals all social classes of our times

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Inspired by Sanders work, I have set myself a goal to take 600 portraits of the archetypes of modern day Britain, creating an index contemporary Britain, a body of work which like Sanders I hope will show the change in the face of our times, with Brexit looming I shall get to work!

So if  you’re a boxer, a professor, a baker, artist, brewer, doctor, solicitor, factory owner, street cleaner or even a tax officer, I would love to make your Portrait, one for the history books for the people of the 22nd century to consider, if you’d like to be a part of my ongoing project ’21st century people’  and you live in Lancashire, please get in touch at; ash@ashleyhardmanphoto.com

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What makes a good photograph?

“Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation. A photograph is a result of the photographer’s decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless.” – John Berger

When we look at a photo, what is it that we like about what we’re looking at? Is it the composition? the exposure? Is it the colour or tonal range? could it be whats been photographed, is it the human form? male or female? a flower?

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It could be a number of these elements coming together. Most people don’t know how to read a photograph, yet there a more people than ever taking photographs, how many of them understand the camera they’re using to say what it is they’re truly trying to say?

In the age of Instagram the amateur photographer has overtaken the professional photographer in the public domain, and what does the amateur photographer like to record? most of all… Sunset! On Instagram alone; one hundred seventy-two million six hundred seventy-three thousand three hundred seventy-seven (172,673,377) photos of sunsets have been recorded at the time of writing this post.

I’ve taken my fair share of sunsets as there is something awe inspiring about sunset. The light, the colours, it often makes you slow down even if it’s just for one minute. The question is, does the professional photographer need to record this? with the 172 billion plus records of sunset, can you say anything new about the sun setting? Penelope Umbrico is doing a great job of collaborating with Flickr users to collect photos of the Sunset check out her work here;-

(http://www.penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/project/suns/)

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Penelope Umbrico sunsets 2006-present

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” 

― Susan Sontag

A key factor in photography the photographer’s job to record reality as best as possible though not always accurately. Does one always perceive reality accurately? I think not. For example; when we look up at the sky during the day, (before sunset) what do we see? Human perception doesn’t reveal all that lies behind the blue sky, we use the lens to explore this in order to see beyond.

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Photography is used to explore the far reaches of the galaxy to the things that exist around us on a nanoscale, our reality is made up of atoms undetectable by the human eye, so everything in between is what the photographer records, presenting to the viewer an image in which the viewer can give meaning, to challenge the perception of the viewer or to accurately describe a moment in history.

What a photo says it what you want it to say, but if you keep imitating what you see other photographers do, you’ll just keep repeating what they’ve already said, find your voice say something new go out and make a good photograph, challenge your audience give the image some meaning that’s what makes a good photograph.

Below is a photo of mine in which I consider one of my favourites. To me it describes our existence, it mystifies, it represents what we need, what we hold onto it speaks of the unknown. it is firmly rooted while being withered by the elements. Defiant in its spirit.

(share this post to enter into a draw to receive a signed postcard) *UK only, only 6 available

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