by Sandro Pintus

"Photography has no shadows"
An exhibition of photos by August Sander at Alinari

Who could have a better guide than Gerd Sanders, August's grandson, who is also a photographer, like his father before him. The 190 beautiful black and white photos are on show for the first time in Italy in this exhibition at the Fratelli Alinari Photography Museum in Florence until January 15th and I had the unexpected luck to be taken around by Gerd himself.

The cover of the catalogue of the exhibition
The portraits, hung in four rooms which should be toured in a clock-wise direction, start out by illustrating the world of the peasant farmer and that of the working man, these are followed by the trades connected with the arts, such as music, painting and photography, including a self-portrait of the author, described simply as a "Photographer" in the caption beneath it, as well as of the Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis. All the photographs come from the Sander archives in Cologne, and are a historical and sociological view of the German society of the period, forming part of what the author called the "Men of the 20th century" project. One of the photos, the "Visit of the President in his car", seems to be rather out of place. Gerd explains that it is in fact the only journalistic photograph his grandfather ever took. He then points out "Political prisoner", an extremely expressive close-up, and explains that the photo was taken by his uncle, also a photographer, when he was in prison, and of whom we can also see his self-portrait in his cell. He was a doctor and, as he was also a photographer, he had to take pictures of the prisoners. These photographs have been included in the exhibition because they also form part of the August Sander's project. In the centre of the last room we can see his photographs of nature, botanical studies and views of the Rhine and human intervention as well as the photomontage cards Sander used to send to his friends and acquaintances to wish them a happy new year. However one of Gerd Sander's favourite photographs is the last one we can see in the exhibition: a portrait of an old lady on her death bed which his grandfather, with extreme simplicity and respect, called "Matter". The cycle of life comes to a conclusion. An exhibition that should not be missed.foto© August Sander Archiv/SK-Stiftung Kultur, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 1996.

See also: an Interview with Gerd Sander

FAN-Florence ART News
Silvia Messeri & Sandro Pintus

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