60th anniversary of August Sander's death

August Sander: Farmer on his way to church, 1925/26 © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2024

The Italian artist Francesco Neri honors August Sander with a donation to Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur

August Sander, who is highly regarded for his photographs, especially his portraits, died on April 20, 1964. The Italian artist Francesco Neri, who received the first August Sander Prize six years ago, has now donated eight of his most recent portrait photographs to Die Photographische Sammlung on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of August Sander's death. They show older people from the rural milieu of northern Italy in their everyday lives, attentively and true to life. When comparing some of the portraits, one can hardly believe that there are around 100 years between the photographs taken by August Sander, for whom the rural farming environment was an important reference, and those by Francesco Neri. In addition to observing generally unifying basic features, if you look more closely you can also discover different moments that are typical of the time. What needs do people have, what life experiences and what influences are formative? “Seeing, Observing and Thinking” was August Sander’s motto, which apparently continues to this day.


August Sander died 60 years ago at the age of 87, as a result of a stroke, in the St. Anna Hospital in Cologne-Lindenthal, not far from his photography workshop at Dürener Straße 201, which he ran until the early 1940s. He was buried in the Melaten cemetery and the letters of condolence preserved in his archives bear witness to the great sympathy shown by the mayors of the city of Cologne and the town of Herdorf, his birthplace, where he was made an honorary citizen in 1958. Konrad Adenauer also expressed his sympathy, as did Gerhard Schröder, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the German Photographic Society, of which August Sander was one of the founding members. Personalities from the cultural and private spheres sent letters to Gunther Sander, the son who would take over Sander's estate. After his death in 1987, the inheritance was taken over by his grandson Gerd Sander, who preserved his grandfather's estate until the Cultural Foundation of the Stadtsparkasse Köln (today SK Stiftung Kultur) acquired the collection in 1992.

This was intended to lay the foundation for an institution at Sander's place of work in Cologne that is dedicated to objective-documentary photography on an international scale and across all periods, further honouring the work of August Sander through exhibitions, publications and corresponding research work. The artist couple Bernd and Hilla Becher were particularly convinced of this idea, as they valued Sander's photographic concept, his objective, precise view and his sense of the typical as exemplary for their own work.

This is how Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur was created, based in the Cologne Media Park, whose programme highlights artistic positions that deal with a wide extent of topics ranging from portraits, industry, landscape, architecture and nature in their series of works. A growing collection now also bears witness to this, in which the August Sander Archive represents an important reference point.

A sign of the timeless relevance of Sander's work is the August Sander Prize, which has been awarded every two years since 2018 to photographers aged 40 or under who have made outstanding contributions to portrait photography. The applications show time and again how lastingly influential August Sander's work is worldwide.

Francesco Neri: Fognano, 19.7.2022 © Francesco Neri, 2024