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August Sander, Zirkusartistin, 1926‒1932 © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018, Courtesy Galerie Johannes Faber
Untitled (Verena Dengler 2), Hanna Putz, 2017




With August Sander WestLicht presents one of the outstanding classics of photo history. A seminal exponent of New Objectivity and a trailblazer of conceptual and documentary photography, his influence is still eminent today. The exhibition comprises of 70 works from his epochal portrait cycle People of the 20th Century, which Sander devised during the mid-1920s and which he published in a first version in 1929 under the title of Antlitz der Zeit (Face of the Time).

His concept of a photographic analysis of society via comparative and direct observation was aimed at a comprehensive social portrait of German Weimar Republic. Divided into seven sections, the picture atlas juxtaposes representatives of different social groups and professions.

By condensing characteristic features of posture, gesture and attire, the portraits reflect on the interplay of the particular and the typical. His physiognomic panorama of an era examines the relationship between the individual and society. Sander’s universal approach is a strong democratic and rational counterpoint to other photo projects of the interwar period, which conceptualized society either as an elitist parade of grand leaders and thinkers or along racial categories of blood and soil.

The presentation at WestLicht is based on an exhibition the photographer curated himself in 1963, the year before his death. In the display cases, additional Vienna street scenes and studio portraits from Linz, where Sander ran a photo studio between 1901 and 1909, document his photographic practice apart from his magnum opus.

Exhibition catalogue here>>



Coinciding with the August Sander exhibition, the upper gallery features an installation by Hanna Putz, Portraits after S. The Vienna and Berlin based artist has been invited to curate a selection of her portraits. The photographs depict predominantly women of her own generation – among them friends and peers of the artist, protagonists of the Austrian art scene and athletes, whom Putz accompanied over a period of time. While in Sander’s compositions the connection between man and his status still seems to be a stable foundation despite the social upheaval of the 1920s, Putz documents the contemporary individual, exempt from all ties, with radical crops and tilted views. In her distinctive, quiet yet powerful, voice, Putz casts a contemporary female perspective on the work of Sander and its conceptual and social aspects.

An installation in the camera museum draws a further connection to contemporary art. It pays tribute to the far-reaching legacy of Sander’s so-called exact photography and visual sociology with a presentation of photobooks by his successors, including publications by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Rineke Dijkstra, Hans Eijkelboom, Bernhard Fuchs, Dana Lixenberg and many more.

Pictures of the opening here>>

Video of the exhibition here>>