Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Influencers – August Sander & Disfarmer

A long time ago Etro did an advertising campaign that was inspired by August Sander. I loved that campaign and immediately set out to learn more about Sander.

When I found this book I was struck by the quiet dignity of the everyday people in Sander’s images.


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  1. Style Scanner

    September 2, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Extraordinarily characterful images.

  2. Polkadot

    September 2, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Very true about the historical fashion perspective :)
    I really adore the little girl's shoes. There's an innocence to the whole outfit which I think is captured by the practical (yet slightly over-sized…probably to grow into?) lace-ups.

  3. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Like this girl you shot in Venice, she is in water and her arms are like two birds ! Incredible pic ! Sunny

  4. bebojo

    September 2, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I am a huge fan of Disfarmer, the quality and quantity of his work is incredible. The truth of his photographs is beautiful. Thank you for shining a light on a past that would otherwise be forgotten – especially by the 'fashion forward.'

  5. Taevon Palmer

    September 2, 2009 at 9:37 am

    excellent images a well developed book

  6. geezi

    September 2, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Notice the way the girl's feet are at an angle? Gives feeling as if its a child's drawing instead of a picture. They say god is in the details. Here s why.

  7. Baron

    September 2, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Sander's work is particularly powerful because of the political climate surrounding it. Much of his work was destroyed by the Nazis as it showed that Germany had many faces and not just the aryan face. The shot of the three young farmers on their way to the dance is perfect – they seem to be caught mid-stride rather than posed.
    I enjoy your blog very much.

  8. Jeremy

    September 2, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Speaking of inspiration. Found this quote today, thought you'd enjoy.

    "A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them."
    — Hardy Amies

    That is all.

  9. Hawa

    September 2, 2009 at 9:58 am

    love your way with words whilst describing your inspirations….and i love how you dont put extra bs jargon….your words are as honest as your imagery!

  10. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Also the way the little girl's feet point to her left, yet her torso is straight forward to the camera. Unusual stance and captures the attention!

  11. beba,

    September 2, 2009 at 10:05 am

    "I also like that even though these were not shot as fashion images the historical fashion perspective they give us is invaluable" – true, I like this too.

    Peace and love!

  12. RW

    September 2, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Scott, Bill Frisell recently released a Jazz CD called Disfarmer inspired by Michael Disfarmer's photos.

  13. amanda james

    September 2, 2009 at 10:27 am

    i like sanders photographies too. i had ti give a lecture about him and his art and since then i like him very much

  14. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Really, really thrilled that you are sharing this. You're a wonderful inspiration (and I don't even work in the arts field). Thank you.

  15. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 10:57 am

    have a look at Larry Towel's book The Mennonites

  16. Floren

    September 2, 2009 at 10:58 am

    The people of your photos is distant, misterious, and sometimes it seems that they are from another time. I can see the influence!!

  17. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I felt the same way about portraits of early photography. Compared to our age, there were less people in the late 19th (less than 1/3) and little media to shape who one was. People must have had a lot more room to develop their quirks.

  18. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 11:10 am

    "The quiet dignity of everyday people." Beautiful words, Scott.

    Looking at the three gents on the cover of "Citizens of the twentieth century," I was reminded of my grandfather who lived most of his life in a tiny little mountain village of Southern Italy. A mountain man of few words, intense resolve, morals and a sense of staunch dignity. He knew his place in the world.

    He was a shepherd and I have fond memories of him. Whether he was shepherding, collecting olives, turning a pig into salamis or telling the priest to get out of his way, I never saw him in anything other than black three-piece suits, a black hat and cane. Fierce.

    I see grandfathers of today playing computer games, wearing hip-hop shorts and getting their Depends in a knot if their cappuccino is not adequately frothy.

    I realize just how fortunate I was during my early days raised in the presence of men who broadcast quiet dignity.

    I'll be looking for that book. Thanks.


  19. The Photodiarist

    September 2, 2009 at 11:11 am

    As much as I love your statements about style, I have always wanted to hear about your photography and your influences. I am so glad that you are doing this series!

  20. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

    a friend gave me the Disfarmer book years ago and i was enthralled by every image in it. it really is one of the best photography books of all time, not only photos but every aspect of the book. there is very much a connection between your style and Disfarmer, a connection with and respect for the subject.

  21. UNordinaryChic

    September 2, 2009 at 11:48 am

    i totally agree that these "ordinary" people just fill up the space with their strong personas. The young girl in the last photo makes me want to grab a shoe and sock combo like hers.


  22. Kate G.

    September 2, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Sanders and Disfarmer are terrific portrait shooters, aren't they?

    What has always interested me is that Disfarmer's subjects came to him. He was the town's portrait man. Using glass plates and a north facing skylight, he captured the faces of a generation as casually as a county fair photographer.

    I think Penn's Small Rooms and Avedon's later portraits owe an homage to Disfarmer. He had an extraordinary eye for people.

  23. Fleurs

    September 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Extraordinary photographers.
    I also got the books and I'm happy to own them.

    In my view it's the subject and the lucky moment, not the photographer :)

  24. BookSexy

    September 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I'm a Sander fan (ever since I saw a show at the Met several years ago). I think the similarities are part of what drew me to your work. You definitely are carrying on the torch.

  25. Gillian Young

    September 2, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I admired your book in Colette today and think you do all of this very well. You let people speak for themselves through your photographs. The book is beautiful and I am planning a trip back to buy it!

  26. Ms. B

    September 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Wow, wonderful books! Thank you for bringing them to our attention!

  27. vavavinny

    September 2, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Sanders may be my favorite portraitist. His images, no matter the subject- from cook, to homeless man, to student, to aristocrat, to secretary- always maintain an air of sophistication and elegance, proving that anyone from any walk of life can be worth photographing and immortalizing.

  28. Lola

    September 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    First photo was the inspiration for the book by Richard Powers "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" ;-)

  29. JustNorman

    September 2, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    very simple. classic
    the blog that no one knows about

  30. skibummin1

    September 2, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    first I love the 3 men they could be turn of the century farmers,sheep herders,mafiosa etc

    I love the girls pose how her feet pointed to the left. I hate the pidgeon toed shots now a days with models. Where did that come from. Trying to be innocent,cutsey

  31. henri

    September 2, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    subtle accentuation is an art i've yet to master

  32. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Sanders reveals the spirit and the guts of all her captures. Thank you for sharing these.


    September 2, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Cotton moleskin coats and canes. Is it just me or do all their shoes look unusually large?


  34. a mya

    September 2, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    This reminds me that in Wim Wenders' brilliant film "Notebook on Cities and Clothes" Yoshi Yamamoto shows his dogeared copy of August Sander book as inspiration for his collection.

    Thank you for combining my two loves of photography and fashion into one place! I love your blog.

  35. Anonymous

    September 2, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I like Sanders, too, but hope to see more street photography of yours again soon…

  36. downunderboy

    September 3, 2009 at 4:24 am

    Dearest Darling Sart –
    As you appear to be having a touch of nostalgia at the minute, you might like to check out the blog " A time to Get". Particularly his post from the 31st of August called "We all slip up at some point". You've probably already seen it, but as one poster commented – "They just don't make 'em like they used to" I hope you enjoy.

    Keep up the awesome work – regardless of whether I agree with you or not – you always brighten my day.

  37. Sarah

    September 3, 2009 at 5:09 am

    I love August Sanders! I have had the Farmers as my Mac background for 7 years and have a large framed print on my wall – since I was 14. So very inspiring!

  38. Francesca Colussi

    September 3, 2009 at 7:07 am

    I received your book this morning, while I was preparing my tea. My tea was undrinkable cold when I finisched to look at your pictures.
    I totally agree with your introduction. It's not just about skirts and heels, isn't it?
    It's not just a book about fashion. It tells me more. I can read stories in it.
    Your inspirations did a good job!

  39. leah_nsf

    September 3, 2009 at 7:58 am

    I just recieved your book through the post this morning. It's even more beautiful, articulate, intelligent and inspiring than I expected.

    I expect in a few years someone will make a post like this on a blog about how your work inspired them.

    Keep up the good work!

  40. Lucas Jones

    September 3, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Scott – Thanks for sharing these! I love this Influencers series! (And the book! You did great :) )

    Keep it up!

  41. Anonymous

    September 3, 2009 at 11:58 am

    May I recommend checking out the work ofOrtiz Echague – a Spanish photographer from the turn of the century (19th to 20th that is). I think you'll like his work too.

  42. aLvin.

    September 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    i love these covers, they look so classic.

  43. wideyed

    September 4, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Disfarmer is amazing! I love that book.

  44. Anonymous

    September 4, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    I wonder if you've ever seen Edouard Boubat's photos of Lella. Your photos remind me of them.

  45. Penny

    September 6, 2009 at 11:33 am

    If you're in Paris on Wednesday, there is a Sander exhibit opening at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (

  46. Michelle

    September 6, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    These photographs are strikingly beautiful. I've always loved a quiet stillness and photos, and they really have that quality. Thanks for the post.

  47. Life with Kaishon

    September 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I don't know any thing at all about fashion. Seriously nothing. But, I can tell that I love those pictures. Very cool. Subtle. Awesome!

  48. °°matias

    September 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    The photos shot by Sander are just awesome – and were kind of revolutionary when he startet with it… the normal people of german cities in the 20s, the years of the weimarer republic – almost unbelievable, that only a few years later, the same country, that once had the "most democratic republic" was become a country of terror and war – just can´t get over it!

  49. Anonymous

    September 8, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    a magazine in Arkansas recently published a fabulous article on Disfarmer and included several of his photos. I was unfamiliar with his work until this article came out and now I'm a huge fan. It's great to see you reference him on your blog. He unknowingly contributed greatly to the world of fashion & photography through his portrayal of the everyday rural American.
    The article may still be on their website, not sure though. It's and was in their August issue

  50. YSMN.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    wow I love it!

  51. Sandra

    September 15, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Could anyone please! tell me what was the year and season of the mentioned Etro ad campaign. I am busting my brain on a paper about fashion advertisement and I really liked the Disfarmer, so it would be a great subject.

  52. Valéry Lorenzo

    November 16, 2009 at 11:54 am

    All right.
    Congratulations !

  53. edelyn

    March 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I am very disturbed by the angle of the girl's feet versus the position of her body facing the camera. It makes me think it is indeed but great shots! I adore it.

  54. Giorgio Leone

    September 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    August…… the King.

  55. Andrew S

    February 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

    The top photograph was used for the cover of a novel call Three Farmers on their way to a Dance about the Nazis and a stollen Hispano Suiza – started it but never finished it – unlike me!

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