Thursday, April 5, 2007

My Inspiration – August Sander

Though I didn’t start out trying to shoot like August Sander I think I always had this image in the back of my mind when I started The Sartorialist.
I remember when I bought my first Sander book, I would look at this shot and wonder what that person was like, and why he was standing in such an empty street.
A fascinating photograph.

I have no idea where my career will go but I hope to create at least a few images like this along the way.

If you are not familiar with August Sander please click on the links below to learn more about him and his work.

Masters of Fine Art Photography

New York Metropolitan Museum : August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century
A Photographic Portrait of Germany


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  1. heather*b*watts Halifax, Nova Scotia

    April 5, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Yes, this is also my wish, to leave something good. August Sander was introduced to me by the Artist Robin Metcalf when I told him that I wanted to record how people looked at this time historically. Francesca Tallone steered me toward your site, and I wanted to say that I appreciate what you are doing.

  2. luc

    April 5, 2007 at 9:16 am

    your pictures are really great portraits. a beautiful
    mix of fashion and great modern, humble portrait
    photography. it´s actually about the people and that
    to me makes the difference to common fashion photography.
    inspiring in many ways.

  3. whyioughtta

    April 5, 2007 at 9:29 am

    That photo is cool on so many levels. It even has a slightly macabre quality. Forgive my ignorance, but is it set in NYC?

    The connection to your work is clear–the photo as story…part portrait, part style, part mystery. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Anonymous

    April 5, 2007 at 9:51 am

    If you like August Sander, you should read Richard Powers’ novel, THREE FARMERS ON THEIR WAY TO A DANCE. In it, Powers takes Sander’s most famous photograph and imagines who the people are in the picture and the kind of lives they would have lived. Very beautiful and touching. It is the novel that made Powers famous.

  5. jkh

    April 5, 2007 at 10:05 am

    you are doing a great job, scott.

    and i doo believe that you are pretty close to august the great.

    i also said it here:

  6. Fredric

    April 5, 2007 at 10:24 am


    I really must say that the work of Sanders cannot be underestimated. The way that he has portraited these people is absolutely fascinating. I didn’t notice anyone smileing in his pictures, that is kind of an intresting detail. I’d say that it makes one look at their outfits a bit closer, wouldn’t you?

    This is where you find my blog

  7. Tiffany

    April 5, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I am surprised not that many people commented on this entry.
    I love Sander’s work and my favorite is “Circus Artistes”

  8. Alice Olive

    April 5, 2007 at 10:41 am

    The settings always seem integral to your photos. At an obvious level, you usually tag each post with where you’ve taken the photo which draws us to the location too. I think that’s often why people comment on the setting or the light etc – because it is all part of your photos.

    A somewhat related thought (for me anyway!) – city as a backdrop – reminds me of an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex and the City. She said in the show’s first season they started to increasingly shoot more on set and she pushed them to go back out to actual New York locations because the ‘City’ was a big (no pun intended) part of the show.

  9. Portia

    April 5, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Sander’s work is bewitching. I’m especially keen about this photo. Your post of the painter in Paris with a mangled baguette slung under his arm manages to evoke a certain approachability and skepticism in a single shot. I love that.
    Also, I don’t think the man in Sander’s shot was alone on the street although the effect is incredible. He probably used a long exposure to blur everything going on in the background, no?

  10. Anonymous

    April 5, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    you are my inspiration

    thank you for all you have taught me

    you have forgotten more than I will ever know

    I owe you more than I am worth

  11. Anonymous

    April 5, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    to whyioughtta: i’d guess that the picture was taken in berlin. the style of the houses (as well as their height) and the broad street and sidewalk look very much like it.

  12. david b

    April 5, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I am so glad you mentioned him.

  13. Carla

    April 5, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    That’s such a lovely inspiration because the sharp-focus street isn’t really typical Sander. Just know that you are having the same kind of influence on folks out here in the blogosphere.

  14. Anonymous

    April 5, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    i’ve always thought of your photos as modern-day sanders. glad to see you view your own work the same way!

  15. Ken

    April 5, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Yes – I think it was last summer when I saw a picture you had put on the blog and I commented that it reminded me of August Sander’s style. Thank you for being so candid about your sources of inspiration; I definitely do think that your work echoes the spirit captured in Sander’s best photos, both on an aesthetic level and on the more intellectual level of capturing a particular moment in the life of a particular place, be in New York or Germany.

  16. Miss Shades

    April 5, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    wow, these pictures are amazing, especially the one of the man in the empty street. it’s so mysterious and eerie but natural.
    i think your photos are always wonderful! i especially think your lighting is fabulous and the colour schemes are always really… pleasant to the eye. It’s a wonder how you get them looking so good when you only have a short time to take the photos!

  17. Jack Daniel

    April 5, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    ohhh yes, inspiration for the 20′s party!!

  18. Alice

    April 5, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Very cool.

  19. Francois

    April 5, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    In 1936, the nazis banned August Sander book and destroyed all copies and in 1944, he lost all of his 40 000 negatives in a fire. However, “People of the Twentieth Century” is still an inspiration to anyone who makes portraits. Thanks for talking about him in your blog and do make prints of your pictures!

  20. Anonymous

    April 5, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    If you like August Sander you (given the theme here) must see “A Notebook on Cities and Clothes,” Wim Wenders’ documentary on Yohji Yamamoto, who speaks of Sander as an influence.

  21. slantdenchanted

    April 6, 2007 at 1:56 am

    is this paris in 1968 when the student riots occurred and the streets were cleared? i don’t know when this was taken but there seems to be some debris in the background that looks interesting. the scene is more about the desolation than this figure. he seems almost incidental, though in the randomness of his juxtaposition with the empty street, a very uncanny composition arises…it’s unheimlich, but artful, and strangely beautiful.

  22. steph

    April 6, 2007 at 3:59 am

    I’ll bet the street is empty because it’s in a northern city and near the summer solstice. You’ll already get this kind of light at 5:30 in Amsterdam, and without daylight savings time that would be even 4:30. All the sensible people are asleep!

  23. Belinda

    April 6, 2007 at 7:18 am

    Very eerie, but at the same time spectacular. An amazing photo. So dramatic.

  24. E. Ross

    April 6, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Scott – have you had any book offers? I’d love to put your Satorialist book on my coffee table so that my guests could check out the world of fashion outside of the “runway” but on the more realistic runway of the street. I love your photography and check your site everyday for something new and inspiring! Thanks!

  25. christy

    April 6, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for sharing your inspiration. It puts your photography into a fascinating new context. I’ll enjoy seeing your work even more now with a tiny glimpse into your thought process.

  26. Anonymous

    April 8, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I can imagine a Virgina Woolf type story involving characters in your photos. Each person could have their life story turned into a novel. But it would be fun to have a peice that involved several of them living their own lives, then crossing paths at some point. I can’t write to save my life. I hope someone out there does a short story about a photo or photos that inspired them.

  27. Anonymous

    April 9, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    There is something crazy going on with the perspective in that picture. The street behind him looks so flattened. It’s like he’s standing in front of a backdrop.

  28. Anonymous

    April 15, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Your pictures are fine. Sander’s project was to photograph people of as many different social classes and occupational categories as a comment on how modernity had transformed society. Though you certainly have an excellent eye for personality and style — especially, and worth applauding, at the level of the everyday — your work does not to be about the momentous changes in society introduced by modernity — changes felt in industry, politics, society and family life — that Sander set out to capture. But then again, Sander saw his art more as a part of a social democratic political project rather than a commercial enterprise, something that required some very particular and painful sacrifices — the death of his son in a Nazi prison being one of them — that I’m sure many of us would want to take.

    I do enjoy how your blog does capture some the lightness and grace style can bring to the everyday, but I’m afraid its far from the substance of Sander’s work.

  29. Anonymous

    April 19, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    This is probably irrelevant butbut his face reminds me of Franz Kafka…the brow part.

    Your pictures always inspire me–that’s why I am sometimes disappointed at myself for not dressing better.

  30. aver la stoffa di

    April 23, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    I went back to look at this photo on your blog after recently reading an article in Harper’s magazine. Francine Prose had reviewed a book entitled ‘Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920′s’, edited by Sabine Rewald. Discussed in the article was the fact that following World War I, painters and photographers were drawn to portraiture (Sander’s photo of the three young farmers was highlighted). Of interest was her comparison of the prevailing mood in Germany to the time following September 11th…”the eye contact that one made with strangers on the street often outlasted the few seconds to which city dwellers are normally accustomed: it was if we were searching our neighbors’ faces to see how human beings still looked – how we looked – and how drastically we had been changed…”.
    There is something of the nature of this in your photos that is intriging. Not only are they a wonderful opporunity to see how people relate to their surroundings but also their relationship with clothing itself…why do they choose what they do and how they put it together…that is outside the confines of fashion.
    My apologies for this lengthy note but I have waited too long to thank you for showing me not to despair, that many others take note of their sleeve length and consider it’s importance.

  31. carla bispo

    June 26, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Hei Scott! I love A. Sander… and I love The Sartorialist!
    Thanks! My daily inspiration !
    Cordial greetings!

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