Photographic works have often taken the form of an extended series of photographs presented in a book or album. Among the most ambitious projects in the history of photography was Sander’s brilliant, unfinished Citizens of the Twentieth Century, a systematic survey of German society comprising portraits of representative types from all walks of life. Here, the politician’s cape sweeps upward in an unbroken line that extends to the tip of his umbrella—an appropriate attribute of a representative of the people—which he holds with proper German rectitude.
In 1929 Sander published a book of sixty photographs. Accompanying the book was an invitation to subscribe to the eventual publication of the entire body of portraits, which the photographer claimed to have made “without prejudice for or against any party, alignment, class, society.” In 1934, the year after the Nazis came to power, they seized the book and destroyed its plates.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 133.