Assignment Four

August Sander

Final Submission

Response to Tutor Feedback

Tutor Feedback

First Draft

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Assignment Four Submission – A picture is worth a thousand words

August SanderFig 1. Young Farmers (1914)

Todays world is saturated with countless images in many media formats meaning we have a tendency to skim over them missing the finer points.  However, this cannot be said for the first time I happened across ‘Young Farmers’ a striking photograph taken by the German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) which has had me mesmerised by the elements within it.

A heavy concentration on social classes formed the apotheosis of Sanders life work.  This photograph is from his series entitled, ‘The Farmer’.  Other series of his work includes, The Artists, The skilled Tradesmen and classes and professions.  In these works, Sander draws attention to the subjects social classes which is in contrast to what other photographs of the time were doing.  Many portraits were composed to hide the subjects class, very often by dressing up in finer clothing than they could afford and being placed in a setting they could only dream of.  This type of portrait photography allowed people to escape from their trappings if only for a moment and ingrained in time by the finished product.  Sanders did the opposite, his photographs were very carefully composed to include all the information a viewer would need to expose their social class.  With such a big emphasis on social class Sanders never referred to his subjects class status, instead they were referred to by their occupation and therefore extending the information offered to the viewer.  In this instance Sanders has given the title, ‘Young Farmers’ so we already know two things about them, they are young and farmers.  This in consistent throughout his work.

We can see three young men, all dressed similar, in fact they probably all look the same from the rear view.  They are all holding canes, walking along a dirt track in what appears to be a vast background of fields which is consistent with what we know about them via their title.  Their heads are sitting just above the horizon line, I’m not sure if this is intentional and symbolic of their lives; keeping their heads above water?   Most of Sanders portraits look posed however these young farmers look like they’ve been stopped in their tracks.  They still have one foot pointing towards their destination as if they are eager to get there.  I’m wondering where have they come from?  Are they farm owners or labourers?  How far have they walked?  Do they have wives at home or moms and dads?  Are they going out to seek wives and begin their adult journey?

We can interpret what we see in the photograph and draw certain assumptions from it’s context.  The man on the left is emulating many signs of being a labourer or peasant with his unkept hair peeking through the rim of his hat and the cigarette casually resting on his lips.  His gaze communicates with a no nonsense attitude almost as if his difficult life is worn on his face.  His cane, which is far too big for him, sits aslant  in comparison to the other two men who have more of a perpendicular stance.  Could the man on the left of the photograph have borrowed his cane from someone far taller.  Is he too poor to buy his own?  Then how can he afford a suit?  The answer lies in the point in history when suits became prêt-à-porter and affordable to all.  In the early 1900’s Suits ceased to be exclusive to the higher earning professionals who wore tailored clothing.  Throughout the 1800’s and prior, clothing was a clear indicator for the separation of the classes.  However with the introduction of ready to wear garments segregation became less obvious.  Wearing an ‘off the peg’ suit would say as much about a person as not wearing one at all.  Look at the shorter man on the left; his trousers are far too long for him; if this suit was made by a tailor the hem of the trouser would fall neatly on his shoe.  This is replicated on his friends suggesting they are all in the same class.  Another class give away is the mere fact that they’re walking to the dance and not driving.  There weren’t any restrictions on drink driving back then so if they owned a car, they would have driven the car to the dance.

In relation to their suits being suggestive of caste, they are also a clue as to where the men are heading.  We may assume they are heading to church but there are certain important signifiers within the photograph that tell us otherwise.  Wearing their best clothing, suited and booted, their classic catalogue pose is reciprocal of the advertisements in magazines and newspapers for such garments of the time and indicative of how special they are feeling too.  In the era the photograph was taken they would have been heading for a county dance meeting local people for drinking, dancing and socialising although I could see the man on the left getting into mischief by judgement of his demeanour.  The man in the middle looks far more relaxed and even starts to break a smile, perhaps he just wants to look his absolute best for the photograph.  Imagine if they had known how famous their photograph would be.  The man on the right looks more anxious almost as if he objects to being stopped and photographed.  He could however be uncomfortable as a suit isn’t his usual attire?  Why are we so sure the evidence in this photograph tells us these men were poor?

In his essay  ‘The suit and the photograph’, John Berger talks about how there is a lot of descriptive information in this photograph to identify many facts about the three young men however, he only wants to consider one thing: their suits.

‘The fundamental reason why the suits, far from disguising the social class of those who wore them, underlined and emphasised it.  Their suits deform them.  Wearing them, they look as though they are physically misshapen’  (Berger, 1980:30)

The photograph doesn’t give much insight into the quality of the suits but it can tell us that the farmers were part of a class that didn’t know how to wear them.

Bibliography:

Fig 1. Sander, A. (1914) Young Farmers. At http://augustsander.org/md20jh/motives/view/15 (accessed 03/08/17)

Berger, J. 1990. About Looking. Paperback Edition. London: Bloomsbury

Clarke, G. 1997. The Photograph. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wells L. 2015. Photography A Critical Introduction. 5th ed. Oxon: Routledge.

https://www.artsy.net/artist/august-sander

The Art of Photograhy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3RnfgRf2ec

http://the-space-in-between.com/category/short-writing-about-singular-images/

http://augustsander.org/md20jh/portfolios/view/2

Self Evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Not applicable as the assignment is a critique of someone else’s photograph.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

What I learnt about Deconstruction and semiotics through carrying out the coursework was essential to the production of this essay.  I applied the tools for deconstruction to this photograph and uncovered most of the clues although sometimes I’ve made assumptions and maybe interpreted differently to others.  The communication of my ideas is backed up with facts from history to appear more convincing to my viewers.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

This essay has a lot to do with connotation and the imagination has been stretched to uncover parts of the narrative.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking.

I researched Roland Barthes, Semiotics theory to uncover the narrative in the photograph.  To write the essay in an academic style I studied various guides from the OCA student portal.  Having said that, I need to undertake further research in essay writing and improve my style.

 

 

Response to Tutor Feedback – Assignment Four

Overall Comments

The overall comments from my tutor for this assignment were very good.  He states that I managed to identify the most important elements of the chosen image.

Feedback on Assignment

Initial comments are regarding my writing style and that it needs to be more academic.  I agree with this statement and will place more importance on researching this subject.  I found a useful guide on the OCA student website called ‘Academic Essay Writing’ and having read it, my tutors comments fall perfectly into place.

There is a section on structuring essays and it suggests thinking of essays in three sections, introduction, middle section and conclusion.  This is very helpful in keeping thoughts within a specified section so as not to digress into others.  My sentence structure needs the most work as I tend to flit between writing as the first person and the third person all in the same essay.  It is suggested in the guide to write academic essays as the third person and I will reword my original essay to reflect this.

As the majority of the feedback is regarding the structure of my essay and not the actual content I will improve upon the writing whilst creating the necessary structures to make it more legible for assessment.

Tutors suggestions

  • Improve the amount and quality of your own reflection
  • As you research for assignment five, make sure that you include all of your pertinent research leading up to your final submission

I still have more work to do in this area.  The speed at which I’ve had to surge through the course has left little time for reflection but I intend to make sure these additions are in place before the assessment deadline.

 

Tutor Feedback – Assignment Four

Overall Comments

You have managed to identify the most important elements of this image in the context of social history particularly within Sander’s work. Below I will go through each paragraph in turn with more specific comments.

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.    

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Paragraph 01

A good opening paragraph that gives us a personal connection that you have to this picture and a reason why you are about to talk about this image. Have a double check of your sentence structure as you re-read your work. For example in this paragraph you say,

‘When you look through as many photographs as I do on a daily basis there becomes an air of blindness…’

This reads a bit clunckily and it might be better to say something like, ‘In the media saturated world that we live in, it is easy to become blinded to smaller details within an image and instead accept a generalized overview’. Obviously I am not suggesting that you use this actual sentence, I use this simply as an example.

Paragraph 02

After your initial paragraph, it would perhaps be better to follow with what is currently paragraph 8 where you give an overview of Sander’s photographic practice. Then you could start to discuss his specific image in detail.

It is good that you pick up on the relative position of the horizon line in relation to the protagonist’s necks and I like your interpretation of this decision. There is also another view that could be taken that suggests that the horizon line is decapitating these young men – nether is necessarily correct but it is good to be aware of other interpretations as well as your own.

Paragraph 03 & 04

These two paragraphs could easily be tied in with paragraph 02 as you are still discussing the formal elements within the image.

Paragraph 05

You include some good information here that gives us insight about the social context that these characters are part of – or at least the suggested context. You could afford to be even more explicit about how important this is important in terms of reading the image.

Paragraph 06

Good point. Could this be part of the previous paragraph?

Paragraph 07

Again, you make some good points here and I like your attempt to describe the possible conclusions that we might reach about their destination. Of course one version of the title tells us where they are going but could they also be on their way to church? How would this change the way that we think about the image?

Paragraph 08

Consider this as your second paragraph. If you decide to do this prior to submitting for assessment, you may have to rejig the beginning and end to fit with what precedes or follows it in its new position.

You make a good point about the way that many of Sander’s works are read but as you have mentioned earlier, the reading of his images are not always as cut and dried as you suggest in this paragraph. Indeed this is slight level of ambiguity is part of their visual and conceptual power.

Paragraph 09

I am interested in your comparison to Adam and the Ants and although it is good to introduce your own thoughts, this seems a little out of place in this piece of writing. In what way does this image relate to a highwayman? Who is being robbed here? I understand the link to the word ‘dandy’ but in a piece of academic writing, be careful to think through the implications of your thoughts and make sure that the concepts that you introduce are pertinent.

Paragraph 10

This paragraph feels like too much of a convenient conclusion. If you can’t find any reference to who these people are, perhaps you could suggest a number of different possibilities or try to find what other writers have suggested in other essays.

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Your course work is looking generally ok. You make some good references to Derrida and Barthes when discussing the Liz Jobey essay. Could you find similar references for your own writing?

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

You have included some good example of practitioners in your blog and you are beginning to read these images and series well. Remember, though, that this section of your blog is about giving the assessors the opportunity to find out how you are reflecting on your own work as well as that of others.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

I (and the assessors) would like to see your attempts to unpick your own exercises and assignments in the way that you have been doing with other practitioners work. I know that it is difficult to be objective about your own work but the reflection section of your blog is the place to add your thoughts about your work and how it might relate to other practitioners.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

There is a really good essay by John Berger that offers some further thoughts about your chosen image –

John Berger, ‘The Suit and the Photograph’ in About Looking, New York 1980, pp.27–36.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

  • Improve the amount and quality of your own reflection.
  • As you research for assignment five, make sure that you include all of your pertinent research leading up to your final submission.

Please inform me of how you would like your feedback for the next assignment: written or video/audio.

Assignment Four: First Draft

August SanderFig 1. Young Farmers (1914)

When you look through as many photographs as I do on a daily basis there becomes an air of blindness but every once in a while a photograph comes along that keeps me awake at night.  Since the first time I happened across ‘Young Farmers’ a striking photograph taken by the German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) its had me  mesmerised by the elements within it.

We can see three young men, all dressed similar, in fact they probably all look the same from the back view.  They are all holding canes, walking along a dirt track in what appears to be a vast background of fields which is consistent with what we know about them via their title.  Their heads are sitting just above the horizon line, I’m not sure if this is intentional and symbolic of their lives; keeping their heads above water?

Most of Sanders portraits look posed however these young farmers look like they’ve been stopped in their tracks.  They still have one foot pointing towards their destination as if they are eager to get there.

I’m wondering where have they come from?  Are they farm owners or labourers?  How far have they walked?  Do they have wives at home or moms and dads?  Are they going out to seek wives and begin their adult journey?

We can interpret what we see in the photograph and draw certain assumptions from it’s context.  The man on the left is emulating many signs of being a labourer or peasant with his unkept hair peeking through the rim of his hat and the cigarette casually resting on his lips.  His gaze communicates with a no nonsense attitude almost as if his difficult life is worn on his face.  His cane, which is far too big for him, sits aslant  in comparison to the other two men who have more of a perpendicular stance.  Could the man on the left of the photograph have borrowed his cane from someone far taller.  Is he too poor to buy his own?  Then how can he afford a suit?  The answer lies in the point in history when suits became prêt-à-porter and affordable to all.  In the early 1900’s Suits ceased to be exclusive to the higher earning professionals who wore tailored clothing.  Throughout the 1800’s and prior, clothing was a clear indicator for the separation of the classes.  However with the introduction of ready to wear garments segregation became jaded although not lost.  Wearing an ‘off the peg’ suit would say as much about a person as not wearing one at all.  Look at the shorter man on the left; his trousers are far too long for him; if this suit was made by a tailor the hem of the trouser would fall neatly on his shoe.  This is replicated on his friends suggesting they are all in the same class.

Another class give away is the mere fact that they’re walking to the dance and not driving.  Don’t forget there weren’t any restrictions on drink driving back then so if they owned a car, they would have driven the car to the dance.

In relation to their suits being suggestive of caste, they are also a clue as to where the men are heading.  Wearing their best clothing, suited and booted, given the fact they aren’t rich men they must be heading to a social gathering possibly with the attention of attracting a mate.  Their classic catalogue pose is reciprocal of the advertisements in magazines and newspapers for such garments of the time and indicative of how special they are feeling too.  In the era the photograph was taken they would have been heading for a county dance meeting local people for drinking, dancing and socialising although I could see the man on the left getting into mischief by judgement of his demeanors.  The man in the middle looks far more relaxed and even starts to break a smile, perhaps he just wants to look his absolute best for the photograph.  Imagine if they had known how famous thier photograph would be.  The man on the right looks more anxious almost as if he objects to being stopped and photographed.

This heavy concentration on social classes formed the apotheosis of Sanders life work.  This photograph is from his series entitled, ‘The Farmer’.  Other series of his work includes, The Atists, The skilled Tradesmen and classes and professions.  In these works, Sander draws attention to the subjects social classes which is in contrast to what other photographs of the time were doing.  Many portraits were composed to hide the subjects class, very often by dressing up in finer clothing than they could afford and being placed in a setting they could only dream of.  This type of portrait photography allowed people to escape from their trappings if only for a moment and ingrained in time by the finished product.  Sanders did the opposite, his photographs were very carefully composed to include all the information a viewer would need to expose their social class.  With such a big emphasis on social class Sanders never referred to his subjects class status, instead they were referred to by their occupation and therefore extending the information offered to the viewer.  In this instance Sanders has given the title, ‘Young Farmers’ so we already know two things about them, they are young and farmers.  This in consistent throughout his work.

Viewing this photograph also links me to other arts and in particular music.  My own identity and experiences have given me a song thats plays in my head when I look at the men in the photograph.  ‘Stand and Deliver’ by Adam Ant (Stuart Goddard) in 1981 has the opening lyrics:

I’m the dandy highwayman who you’re too scared to mention
I spend my cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention

Thats exactly what they remind me of, dandy highway men who have spent their paltry wages on looking good and grabbing attention.  They certainly grabbed my attention.

I tried to research who these men are and what happened to them but sadly I couldn’t find any texts with such information.  I’d like to think that each one of them found a beautiful woman at the the dance that night, married, had children and lived happy organic farming lives.  As for their class well, you can be happy despite of the amount of money you earn as long as your mind has a love of life.

Bibliography:

Fig 1. Sander, A. (1914) Young Farmers. At http://augustsander.org/md20jh/motives/view/15 (accessed 03/08/17)

Clarke, G. 1997. The Photograph. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wells L. 2015. Photography A Critical Introduction. 5th ed. Oxon: Routledge.

https://www.artsy.net/artist/august-sander

The Art of Photograhy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3RnfgRf2ec

http://the-space-in-between.com/category/short-writing-about-singular-images/

http://augustsander.org/md20jh/portfolios/view/2