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Wednesday, 24 March 2010


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I was reading Jörg M. Colbergs review only the other day and and have been thinking about getting the book ever since. I've never been lucky enough to have seen an original print.

I saw the Sander show at the Getty museum in Los Angeles about two years ago, and I felt as haunted by it as you did. I went back several times and I have the deepest appreciation for Sander's work. Last year, the Getty put on the Irving Penn "Small Trades" exhibition, which was a perfect follow-up to Sander. I bought the book that accompanied this exhibition and then finally for my birthday last year, I bought the Sander set as a birthday present to myself. It is the most comprehensive photo book you could ask for and the print quality is wonderful - good enough to where it will at least always remind you of seeing the originals. I am so happy I finally bought the books because I think they will only become more difficult to find over the years. You owe it to yourself. Do what I did, make it your next birthday present to yourself.

"...I'm too cheap to drop that much money just to find out for myself..."

Amazon has the 7 book set at $195. That's
$28 a volume for a total of 1400 pages. Gee,
I thought I was cheap but I concede to the
My iPad comes in 10 days and this set would
be ideal if available as Epub format. One can only hope. I believe the iPad wiil foster a
revolutionary change in book publishing and


I cannot say anything about the book, but I think I saw the German version which is pretty good.

Plus here (mostly in Cologne), you can see the originals ;-)

I haven't seen the book, unfortunately, but it is interesting to note how significantly the image above differs from the image of the cover reproduced on the Amazon website. Further argument that there is no substitute for witnessing the autographical work of the artist :)

I'm a photojournalist at heart, so in the modern era my photographic heroes have included the usual suspects. But of all the photographers whose work I've seen, Sander's exploration of types and his method have left the deepest impression. I can look at the work of the usual suspects every day, but Sander's work all day.

In 2006 I saw an impressive Sander exhibition in Amsterdam
it was a part of the 4.500 original prints and about 11.000 original negatives that still are in the Cologne collection (as Wolfgang mentioned).
They offered prints at that time of Sander, don't know if they are still available, http://www.foam.nl/index.php?pageId=849

I didn't buy the book but preferred to keep a vivid memory of the show...

I, too, saw his show and admire his work.

I also bought the book 'Photographs of An Epoch, 1904-1959,' number 253 from an edition of 400. Each book was signed by Gunther and was accompanied by an original photograph produced and signed by Gunther.

The first 200 copies came with the print 'Pharmacist, Linz, 1931,' while the rest, including mine, came with 'Landscape near Heisterbach, 1935.' He wasn't particularly known for his landscapes, but I love this one. It's the only time I probably destroyed the value of a book, since I couldn't resist framing and hanging the print.

This is coming up soon at the Tate Modern, in London (UK), for those who can make it:
Gallery Talk Apr 22, 2010 2:30pm
In the mid 1920s the Cologne photographer began to gather his images of people into a larger scheme that he envisaged as a survey of his contemporaries and that he called ‘People of the 20th Century’. It became a classic project of social observation: poignant, immediate and timeless. To coincide with a new display of Sander photographs, Reiner Holzemer’s 2005 documentary will be followed by a discussion with Gerd Sander, the photographer’s grandson and an expert on his life and work.
Tate Modern Starr Auditorium
Free, no bookings taken
Seated on a first-come, first-served basis

"Still, every so often I get a hunger to revisit Sander, and I find myself, in my mind, heading up the back stairs at the Corcoran again, to go visit those rows of prints alone....". Touching words of love for photograpy . Keep going Mike.

In response to Paul Logins:
G*d, I hope not! That's to say, I hope we won't see photo books sold on the iPad and being somehow fooled into seeing that as an advancement. All of the haptics and most of the tonality lost, I'd say. It may be a neat gadget to watch movies on, do your e-mail or perhaps even read text, but there can be no simulacrum for reverently turning the pages of a photo book.

I have the 7 volume set. I saw some of the original prints at an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (London UK) several years ago and like you I was haunted. Couldn't get them out of my mind. I'm very happy with the reproductions in the 7 volumes - I'm never going to own an original so this gets me closer. However, I'm not a master printer so I may be more easily pleased.

What appeals to me too is his attenpt to catalogue the people of the 20C by 'type'. Sander (& the Bechers with their industrial forms) float my taxonomic boat - the taxonomy/typology aspect can't be ignored, full immersion is required. A collection of the Bechers is even more expensive though! Both published by Shirmer/Mosel.

Sander is a landmark...for me, a point of reference when trying to figure out where I am.

Gerd Sander had, until the mid 1980s, a lovely gallery in Washington DC where one could see August's vintage prints and Gunther's and Gerd's. They were all penetratingly dark. They made my life richer.

You're right to be leery, especially if you're chasing that elusive high from your first couple of hits from- the real deal! But what book holds true to the print quality of any master printer? You'd swear Henry Wessel never knew the meaning of black looking at his monograph, although they make his meticulous original prints snap.

I saw the Sander show at the Henri Cartier-Bresson intstitute in Paris in October 2009 and yes the prints were wonderful and displayed on rich deep red walls - really striking!

There was a portrait show in a NYC gallery a few years back juxtaposing Sander’s lovely, small, soulful pictures with Thomas Ruff’s larger-than-life color “heads”. It was no contest in my opinion. The Ruff prints won hands-down for size; the Sanders for everything else. I don’t think my reaction was quite what the gallery curator had hoped for and maybe I was in the minority (it was NYC after all).

BTW, I own the seven book set and have visited _that_ obsessively over the years.

I haven't seen any of the originals, or the 7 volume set, but I do have "August Sander 1876 - 1964" and the reproductions are wonderful (not the opinion of a master printer unfortunately). This is one of my favourite photographic books, right up there with "Portrait of a Period - A collection of Notman photographs 1856-1915...favourites for completely different reasons.

cristoph hammann

To me photos are strictly a visual media.
Carry an iPad or 7 books in the back pack?
No contest. Paper has limited tonality
and color gamut as opposed to a monitor.
Again no contest. 'haptics' threw me,had
to go to the dictionary. You know, you
might be on to something. Ordinarily, I
don't caress and fondle photos, but I'll
try anything once and let you know how it
feels. I've got lots of photo books at
home and enjoy them,but an iPad is just a
different media which is more portable
and versatile.

This, too, shall pass. And Art will move on.

paul logins is wrong.

Amazon has the full seven volume set - hardcover - for $122.85.
No free shipping for 1400 pages but shipping cost is only $3.99.

If something like the iPad becomes the standard way people look at photographs then photography is essentially over as a way of making a living.

This may seem like a strong statement, so let me refine it a little: if the primary way people look at photographs is by fetching a digital copy of the photograph, then photography is over as a way of making a living.

Why is this? Well, let's ask a different question: why would you consider spending a significant sum on a print? Obviously you may like the print, but the reason you're willing to spend a lot of money on it is because *it's inherently expensive to make a copy of it*. In fact it may well be essentially impossible to make a really good copy of it. So it's worth a lot of money because it is very expensive to reproduce.

Consider the August Sander prints: as Mike says, they are extremely hard to reproduce - perhaps effectively impossible to reproduce accurately - and so they have significant value.

So, what is the reproduction cost of a digital copy of a photograph? It's not quite zero, yet, but it is very, very small. And this is the cost to make an *identical* copy.

So, what would you pay for a digital copy of a photograph? I suggest the answer is "almost nothing". The only thing that might hold up the cost of digital images using some mechanism which makes them hard to copy, which mechanism is usually called "digital rights management".

Well, you only have to look at the music business to see how well that is working. I now pay £10 a month to listen to as much music I can consume using Spotify, and I'm probably one of the few who are honest enough to do this, rather than just downloading pirated stuff for free. For someone who listens to a lot of music, the cost has fallen from perhaps £50-100 a month to nothing (if you steal it) or £10 (if you don't) in the last 10 years. What that means is that the money going into the music business has fallen by that amount, per listener.

The music business has other sources of income, such as live music. It's not coincidental that so many bands are reforming to play lucrative gigs: that's the only way they can make money since the income from recorded music has collapsed.

This fate is what lies in store for photography if digital copies of photographs become how people expect to look at them.

Of course there are other sources of income for photographers as well - such as making photographs for use by specific customers and so on, but many of these customers will in turn be being hurt as the costs of reproducing their products plummet (the future for printed newspapers is not bright, for instance).

So, is there any hope? I think there is some. At present, it is clearly the case that reproductions of photographs on digital media are significantly different and arguably worse than prints (note: I m not talking about a print made digitally as opposed to a traditionally made print, I am talking about looking at an image on some kind of screen). Looking at a print is an entirely different experience than looking at an image on a screen. This means that *owning* a print is still desirable, and prints therefore have value.

I think it likely that this will continue to be the case - prints will always look different (and "better") than things on a screen. Certainly the iPad - which does not have any particularly fancy screen technology - is not going to change this. Clearly the market for prints will decline as people are less exposed to them and do not realise how poor a reproduction you see on a screen (I recall a discussion on TOP about daguerreotypes, where some people had clearly never seen one and did not understand how extraordinary they are). So the future is not perhaps as bleak as it might be.

One corollary of the above argument is this: the harder it is to accurately reproduce something, the more value it has. For photography, this means that traditional prints made in a darkroom, from film, are likely to have more value than digital prints, since if I have the same printer as you, and can obtain a copy of the data you sent it, I can make an essentially identical print for the cost of the ink and paper. Don't get rid of your darkroom just yet.

I went to the library and obtained the August Sander: Seeing, Observing, Thinking, One Hundred Masterprints.
Having seen the originals of some of the prints as well as looking at and also sometimes owning many other books about Sander, this one is a serious disappointment. I just looked at all the Sanders books I have. I do not have any books nor can I remember any others I have seen and cannot put my hands on in which the prints were so "flat" and lifeless. Not a book I would ever buy. The choice of prints is also often quite strange.

Sander fans may also be interested in an enjoyable novel by the excellent writer Richard Powers, author of "The Gold Bug Variations" (itself a brilliant kind of novelistic Gödel, Escher, Bach) called "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" which takes, as its point of departure, a photograph by Sander of three farmers on their way to a dance.

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