Exercise: 1.3 portraiture typology


This exercise is a response to August Sander’s (1876 – 1964) work, attempting to create a photographic portraiture typology to bring together a collection of types.

A brief reminder of Sander’s work in Face of our time: Sixty portraits of twentieth- century Germans – he began a 20 year project in 1910 to document the German people. The work as a whole was divided into seven groups, corresponding to social structures (or types as we are discussing typology). The Met list these as: the farmer (Der Bauer); the Skilled Tradesman (Der Handwerker); the Woman (Die Frau); Classes and Professions (Die Stände); the Artists (Die Künstler); the City (Die Großstadt); and the Last People (Die Letzten Menschen), comprising the elderly, the deformed, and the dead. Strangely, there are not listed in the photo book by Sander.


For its types, the exercise uses basic human emotions, which are portrayed instinctively by the human face. There is some debate on what these emotions are (BBC News): the conventional view is that there are six basic emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. However, more recent research using computer assisted techniques suggests that there is little visual distinction between expressions of fear and surprise; and of anger and disgust. So, for the sake of clarity, the types used in the exercise are happiness, sadness, fear, and anger.

Found images from Flickr creative commons have been used to illustrate the portraiture typology, The selection was captured in a Flickr gallery (link here). In homage to the Sander book, in which his categories are not referenced and Douglas Huebler’s variable piece 101, the photos selected are shown below without typological information. The viewer can use their own point of view to attribute the types of happiness, sadness, fear, and anger.

All images from Flickr photographers (click for details)


BBC News [website]. All human behaviour can be reduced to ‘four basic emotions’. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-26019586 [accessed 12.7.16]

The Met [website]. August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century. A Photographic Portrait of Germany. Available from: http://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2004/august-sander-people-of-the-twentieth-century–a-photographic-portrait-of-germany [accessed 12.7.16]

Sander, A., Döblin, A., Robertson, M., er, A., & Doblin, A. (1995). August Sander: Face of our time: Sixty portraits of twentieth- century Germans. Munich: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag GmbH.

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