People watching

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Lauren McGlynn was not the only Lens Lady I was hanging out with this weekend; my friend Kristen also came to stay. After forcing me to publicly humiliate myself in the name of art (more on that coming soon), she dragged the Hubster and I along to a photography exhibition at the Dean Gallery. It was such a beautiful sunny day that it was hard to peel ourselves off our picnic blanket and into the gallery, but it was SO WORTH IT.


The exhibition featured the work of August Sander, a photographer whom I knew nothing about before Sunday (damn comprehensive education). His work consists of hundreds of photographs of ordinary, early-20th-century German people from all walks of life: artists, farmers, bricklayers, solicitors, as well as more old-school occupations like washerwomen and "bohemians". 


Wandering through the exhibition, I was oddly struck by the familiarity of the images. The pictures had been reprinted on modern photographic paper from the original negatives, and were startlingly clear; if it hadn't been for the tell-tale fashions of the time, I might have believed they were taken yesterday. But more than that, they specifically reminded me of a certain modern-day photographer: Scott Schuman, otherwise (very well-) known as The Sartorialist.

August Sander (self-portrait) and Scott Shuman (by Christopher Petersen)

Most people might think of The Sartorialist as nothing more than a fashion or street style blog, and there is no doubting Mr Schuman's knack for picking out a well-turned cuff or statement shoe. But what I find fascinating about his blog, and what I think keeps his legions of followers coming back for more, is his genuine interest in people and his ability to find beauty and elegance in the unlikeliest of subjects. For me, his blog is so much more than any old street style blog - it is a street life blog, life in all its forms, and to me that is not so very different from what August Sander was trying to capture.


Sure enough, when I came home and had a look through The Sartorialist's archives, there were numerous examples of work that seemed to echo those black-and-white images we had just spent a quiet hour perusing at the gallery. It just goes to show that, really, nothing is original, nothing is entirely new; we are all just building upon what has gone before. 

Above all, it reassured me that fashions may come and go, but style, as they say, is timeless.


[Update: As the super intelligent and knowledgeable Catherine has pointed out below, Schuman has in fact credited Sander before (um, more than once) as being one of his main influences. And I thought I was being so clever. I promise I didn't read either of those posts before I wrote this - but I guess it just proves my point that nothing, really, is original...]
 
 
All images on the left: the August Sander Archive
All images on the right, except where noted: Scott Schuman/The Sartorialist

4 boats moored

  1. Great post! I love the Sartorialist & Garance. Sart wrote a blog about Sander being one of his major influences. Also Paul Strand... there is a whole treasure trove of amazing C20th street photographers, like the photographers of the FSA program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm_Security_Administration#Photography_program, Walker Evans, and the recently-discovered Vivien Maier http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/ There are a few other major ones but that's all I can recall for now!

    I did a great photography art history module at uni, I must dig out my notes and revisit it. And of course Cara and Nye are great street wedding photographers, which is a catagory of wedding photography I just made up in my head.

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  2. Love it! Street wedding photographers makes them sound like they are down with the kidz, yo.

    Thank you so much for all of those links, I will be checking them out - it's so nice to get a bit of culture for a change (since apparently shoes are not *technically* culture. Whatevs).

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  3. Brilliant post, i just love that image of the pastry chef.

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  4. If they spun a whole module out of furniture, shoes are so culture...

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