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"One of the most significant and influential photographers of the twentieth century"

- Tate Museum

In a groundbreaking partnership between Fellowship and the August Sander family estate, we are proud to announce the first ever 10k photography projectThe August Sander 10k collection marks a milestone in the both the brief histories of NFTs, and the long histories of photographic distribution as being the first NFT collection comprised of the entirety of a photographer’s family estate.

Each NFT in this collection represents more than simple ownership of an image. They provide the keys to a century’s worth of knowledge carefully preserved and maintained by the photographer’s family. These are not just photographs, but codexes of information that include annotations and metadata, an accumulated knowledge that infers that pictures are not simply things to look at, but things to know. Over time, additional attributes will be included in the metadata of this collection. These NFTs will function as a living and active archive preserved for continued scholarship, appreciation, and windows into the eyes of a man who sought to preserve the truth about the world he knew.

By becoming a collector of these NFTs, you also become a steward of August Sander’s legacy, and it will be not only his family through which Sander’s work lives on, but through all of us. 

Read our series of 9 essays on the history of collecting →

The NFTs

Every NFT is BOTH a unique 1/1 and a source of provenance to all known physical manifestations of the photograph.

The images consist of contact prints made directly from Sander’s negatives, and include annotations compiled over the span of four generations of the Sander family. These include:

- Date
- Potential name and residence of subject
- Markings of Negative editing and notes about restoration
- Position within collections (e.g. People of the Twentieth Century)
- August Sander Archive Number 

 

The Metadata will be dynamic and evolve over time as more information about Sander’s legacy is researched and discovered.

The NFTs will initially include data such as the date the image was taken, any museums, exhibitions or books it has been featured in, the group and portfolio it belongs to and the printer. 

Further on, metadata will be updated to include the number of physical prints, type of paper used, history of publication, and much more contextualizing information. The vision for this archive is for it to become the most comprehensively recorded collection of photographic work in the world. And Fellowship aims to set the gold standard of provenance and context for photography on the blockchain.

August Sander is represented in the following museum collections:

National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa; The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen; Bibliothèque nationale de France; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur–August Sander Archiv, Cologne; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; The Walther Collection, Ulm; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur (Zürich); Tate Modern Museum, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, Chicago; Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; ICP–International Center of Photography, New York; New York Public Library; George Eastman House, Rochester; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Seattle Art Museum;Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; National Gallery of Art,Washington D.C.; Centre Pompidou, Paris

Our Roadmap

reveal

Sander's "Face of our Time" emblem was used before the reveal

Phase One: The Reveal (complete)

On 11th February 2022, the first year anniversary of Gerd Sander's passing, the entire archive was distributed to the community for free. This speaks volumes about the commitment of both Fellowship and the August Sander family estate to creating a new standard of visibility and public access to large photography collections, an issue that has historically burdened museums.

Phase Two: High-Res Images and Physical Prints (soon)

Collectors will have exclusive access through a token gated site, to visualize and see incredible details from these historic negatives up close. They will also be able to redeem the 1/1 physical contact sheet print.

unnamed


meta-data

Metadata will be added to over time with help from the community

Phase Three: Community Curation (Ongoing In Perpetuity)

These works are information pictures. They will be growing in metadata to serve almost as provenance to all the physical iterations in the world.

We are building a platform to help this collection become a case study of how photographer legacies can be not just preserved but amplified by community, decentralization and the blockchain.

Phase Four: Community Benefits (Ongoing In Perpetuity)

We will look for ways to activate these images with the larger photography community and also provide additional benefits to holders of the images.

This may include collaborations, calls-to-action, research proposals, and creative ideas for community engagement with the Sanders archive.

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August Sander

august-1

August Sander in his darkroom, c. 1930s

German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) is widely recognized as among the most important and influential figures of 20th century photography. He spent his life and career training his lens upon German society, not seeking to interpret, but simply to record the truths of his time.

Among the many projects that Sander compiled over his long career is a decades-long portrait oeuvre entitled People of the Twentieth Century, an encyclopedic collection which illustrated the fabric of German life spanning from the early 20th century until the end of World War II. The 619-image collection of People of the Twentieth Century was acquired by MoMA in 2015.

As popular as People of the Twentieth Century has become, it represents a small portion of the larger legacy of the man who sought to create a comprehensive photographic portrait of Germany and its people. Sander’s mission extended to visual studies in architecture, landscape, nature, animals…there was no subject that could escape the photographer’s unique and ambitious categorical mind.

What is Legacy?

By Julian Sander, great grandson of August

Everyone knows what electricity is. You will be hard pressed to find a human who doesn’t know what it means to say “please turn on the light.” In the language of portrait photography, August Sander is the reference point, the light by which countless photographers who have come after him are measured against.

Many assume this has to do with August’s formalism. How he placed the sitter in the frame, how he arranged the surroundings, how he set the light. All of these decisions are important, but only in the way it is important that a violinist has his bow tightened properly, his instrument tuned, and his hands and arms loose.

Every photograph consists of a series of judgment calls, and most importantly, a viewpoint. The promise of the camera was that it allowed the world to see intrinsic truth. Of course, this notion of photographic objectivity has faded over time. It is the nature of photography to show what the photographer sees and choses to remember, nothing more. How then can a body of work like that of my great-grandfather become so deeply ingrained in our collective understanding of the medium?

Beyond the beautiful mist of August’s aesthetics lies a deeper message that was revolutionary at that time and remains valid to this very moment in history. August gave each of his subjects a stage to present themselves as they chose to show themselves to you, the viewer. He did not judge, he just presented what was in front of him. This may seem trivial, or even easy, but it is not. There is no skill more difficult to master in photography.

What is legacy? How can we define it? I am the fourth generation of a line of photographers who have worked with the creative output of a single man. The simple truth is that August Sander’s work is known to the world now solely because my family took the needed steps to both conserve its physicality and preserve its written and oral legacy. The work and the knowledge was passed from one pair of warm hands to another.

The knowledge is the key to this legacy. In fact, knowledge is at the root of most everything. We learn from our ancestors, and then build upon that knowledge to move forward. It is for this very reason that knowledge must always be free. The fact is that things that are unknown disappear. Access to knowledge and the freedom to investigate it freely is of utmost value. August himself spoke of our duty to understand the world and our place in it, whether that knowledge be good for us or not. He understood the deeper connections between choices and consequences. Essentially, knowledge is what makes us embellish a thing with value. It connects what we see and what we own to our emotions and by doing so make them important to us.

So what is the Sander legacy? August said: “See, observe, think, and the answer will become clear.” He knew that his work could only render an abstraction. He framed an idea of humanity into his work using the toolkit he had and understood, both technically and personally. He spoke the language of the people he photographed and gave his subjects a platform to present themselves. His artistic genius was then revealed in his editing and selecting of works from his vast archive to formulate an idea of what a society could be as a series of archetypal images, devoid of personalisation and yet still very personal. That project was called People of the 20th Century.

This hallmark project was not August’s only focus in his life. He pursued many others as well: studies of human physiognomy, studies of the urban and rural landscapes, studies of the farmers as a superclass of society who he understood to be the true salt of the earth. These were just some of the projects that he was working on. Beyond that, there are the collections and exhibitions that countless curators have organized over the decades. As such, a part of August’s legacy now exists in the collections of a great number of museums like MoMA, The MET, Museum Ludwig, Centre Pompidous, Art Institute of Chicago, the Photographic Collection in Cologne and the Getty. These are hallowed halls of great photographic works that August’s legacy resides within.

None of this would not have been possible without the care and foresight of both August’s son, Gunther Sander and grandson, Gerd.

As a gifted landscape photographer himself, Gunther worked as August’s assistant. He also introduced August to Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, one of the founders of the Cologne Progressives, which became a freindship that would lead to years of intense debate about art and society. Seiwert, together with Heinrich Hoerle and the rest of the Cologne Progressives, would encourage August to continue with his project of rendering a portrait of Germany as an abstraction of class and type. They were convinced that his photographs were key to this very endeavor.

Gunther understood the importance of his father’s work. In 1959, Gunther would help facilitate an article in DU Magazine, which helped August achieve greater recognition for his work after the end of WW2. He later published Menschen Ohne Masken (Men Without Masks), the first attempt to finish his father's project People of the 20th Century. After that, he published the first full iteration of People of the 20th Century. Most importantly, Gunther had the foresight to care for the negatives, prints and letters from his father’s archives. He then passed the negatives and the remaining prints he had not sold, along with the family correspondence, to his son, my father Gerd. In 1984, the August Sander Archive (ASA) was born in the Sander Gallery on Greene Street in SOHO New York.

My parent’s story is a chapter in and of itself that is best left to tell another day. A few details from it, however, are important to note. We moved to the USA in 1975 as a family of four. My father soon connected with photography greats such as André Kertész and Lisette Model. For Andre, my father restored his widely celebrated distortion negatives through his skill as a darkroom technician, and is the reason why those negatives still exist. He would also become Lisette Model’s gallerist and darkroom printer. The enormous prints that were made and mounted between 2 sheets of plexiglass for her major retrospective exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1981 were all made in the basement darkroom of our house and dried on our clothesline in the backyard. In short, dad became deeply embedded in the world of art photography. His friendships with figures in the photo world at that time would lead to the formation of A.I.P.A.D. as well as the placement of a great number of works from European photographers in American museums. Among those artists was his grandfather.

After Gunther passed away the first thing dad did when he moved back to Germany was to create a complete set of contact sheets from August’s archive. He used these direct prints as a physical database, like an active record on paper. The folders in which these were kept developed into a collection of knowledge about why the pictures were taken, who was in them and how they related to August’s various projects. He devised the negative archive numbering system as well as other identifiers to help understand the body of negatives and prints he inherited from his father, Gunther. It is these contact sheets that form the basis for the NFTs in this collection.

For the 150th birthday of photography, Art Basel invited a select group of photography dealers to take part in the fair. My father showed up with August’s Antlitz der Zeit (Face of our Time) with prints he made from the original negatives. This would be the first step in what dad had started in 1984 with the foundation of the ASA. Where August ran out of time, and Gunther ran out of energy, Gerd would forge ahead.

Over the years, dad hired people to work with him to dig deeply into the history of the images. This was his money and his time which he invested to give volume and depth to the archive. He continued to purchase works from the various collectors and dealers as well as at auction, and the ASA would develop into the largest and finest collection of vintage August Sander prints in the world.

As the investment in this extraordinary collection mounted he had to make a decision. Could he continue to carry it on his own, or would he need support? In 1992, he found people of like mind. They would find a way to put the physical collection into an institution which would care for it and continue to work with it, both curatorially and academically. In 1993, the August Sander Archive became the foundation of the Photographic Collection in Cologne. Dad would continue to work there until 2011.

When he left the Photographic Collection, he took his knowledge and his work archive with him. He continued to work on his grandfather’s legacy through books and exhibition projects. He co-curated the incredible exhibition Persecuted/Persecutors at the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

By this time my father and I were already working together. As with August to Gunther, and Gunther to Gerd, my dad passed knowledge and insight on to me. Through conversations and letters, dad and I dug deep into what art is, what photography is as a medium, and what the work of August Sander means. I then found a way to collect and digitally structure this information into the August Sander Research Database (ASRD).

The ASRD is a massive task, and continues as a work-in-progress. I have worked on it for close to two decades. My idea was to create a comprehensive data set that would begin at the most abstract level of what an artist’s work is, and create a structure of interrelated information which could be added to over time from many sources. The Art Register was born. The ASRD is built on this platform.

We honor our ancestors by remembering them. We build monuments, and keep momentos. We share the stories with our children and grandchildren. In the case of August Sanders' work, this can no longer be done by any one family or institution. The points of contact to this body of work are greater in quantity than one entity can manage. The greatest danger is the loss of knowledge and insight by sheer fact that the interest cannot be satisfied.

That is why I am giving away these NFTs for free.

These NFTs don’t simply represent the ownership of an image, but the key to knowledge itself. Each image represents a small part of the four generations of accumulated knowledge about that specific moment in time. Each of these contains (or will contain) a copy of my father’s work, the contact sheet with all of its annotations. My hope is that this will lead to advances in collective understanding which can then be integrated into, and be shared through, the August Sander Research Database. That information, when peer-reviewed, will be added into the metadata of each NFT in future updates. In this way I am securing the legacy of August Sander on the blockchain.

The nature of blockchain data and the decentralized storage of information is so very promising for archives such as August’s. It is a digital form of our collective cultural memory. That is an extraordinary thing.

I am adding each person who claims an NFT from this collection to the list of stewards of August Sander’s work. Each of you is involved in how the work of August moves into the future. This is our time, our brave new world, and we press forward with the understanding that knowledge, like love, grows when it is shared.

Dad's dream was that the work of his grandfather would become available to all. That is what he spent his life working on. To his dying day, dad would answer every question that popped up with the curiosity of a child. He was always helpful, open and willing to share what he knew. He wanted to help people to understand August’s work. Maybe, more than anything, that is my father’s legacy.

My legacy, if I can predict it, will be to fulfill that dream.

Julian Sander

 

Read our series of 9 essays on the history of collecting → including:

Part I - Photography and Collecting
Part II - Uniqueness and Reproducibility
Part III - Photography in Print
Part IV - The Faces of Early Photography
Part V - Collecting the World
Part VI - Photographs Reveal the World
Part VII - Photography for Everyone
Part VIII - Photography for Everyone
Part IX - Photography and Knowledge