Dissertation Abstracts

August Sander and People of the 20th Century: The Constructed Reality

Author: Rossi, Paulo Jos, pjrossi@gmail.com
Department: Departamento de Sociologia da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas
University: USP - Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
Supervisor: Fernando Antônio Pinheiro Filho
Year of completion: 2009
Language of dissertation: Portugueese

Keywords: photography , constructed reality , August Sander , People of the 20th C


The German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) was the author of one of the most appreciated photographic works from the last century; Man in the Twentieth Century, a vast documentary photography project, started in the 1920’s, composed mostly of portraits, was organized by the author by social occupation.
Some of the portraits in Sander's work are described here in detail in order to find in its visible properties, the aspects of perception which Sander used in his view of the world. The analysis of those images are compared with the classification criteria he adopted and articulated with several pieces of information related to the photographic environment from that time, to the German social political context and to the photographer’s biography. This procedure takes us to the research’s central hypothesis: more than representations of social types, as Sander believed, Man in the Twentieth Century is a collection of stereotypes; his portraits are constructed realities that correspond to a kind of social perception. As for the perception of the real, most of the portraits correspond to the stereotypes that were socially understood at the time.
The dissertation argues that Man in the Twentieth Century is the narration of Sander’s interpretation of this period in Germany. From this point of view, the dissertation not only interprets the art work, but it also considers the circumstanced interpretation from the one who idealized it. Therefore, it is not a study about narrated facts, but about the way Sander narrated them, his perception of the world embedded in the interpretation that he does about the real, circumstanced by several social facts.