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HomeContentsVisual indexesAugust Sander

August Sander 
[Cleaning woman (Putzfrau)] 
Gelatin silver print 
22.9 × 15.9 cm (9 × 6 1/4 in.) 
J. Paul Getty Museum 
© J. Paul Getty Trust, Object Number: 84.XM.126.111 
(Curatorial description, 15 December 2021)
It has often been said that August Sander recorded only the typical in the faces and bodies of his subjects. But as Susan Sontag notes in her 1973 book On Photography: “It was not so much that Sander chose individuals for their representative character as that he assumed, correctly, that the camera cannot help but reveal faces as social masks. . . . All his subjects are representative, equally representative, of a given social reality—their own.”
In 1927 Sander made this portrait of an unidentified cleaning woman. She appears in a utilitarian dress and an apron covered with old stains, the years of hard, underpaid labor written plainly on her face. The broom handle that she demonstratively holds across her chest is a sign of her manual occupation. The woman's humanity recedes almost completely behind her socially assigned function. 

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