This image belongs to a series of photographs that occupied Sander periodically from the 1920s until the 1950s. Entitled "The Organic and Inorganic Tools of Man," the series was to include pictures of prosthetic devices and parts of the human body. Although the series was never realized in book form, the August Sander Archive in Cologne ascribes to it some forty or fifty images; of these, only one depicts a prosthetic device, a mechanical hand that enabled a wounded soldier to write. For the series Sander made close-up studies of facial features and certain parts of the body. He also recycled old negatives by cropping and enlarging individual details in the darkroom. In effect, he edited his archive--and, by extension, the human body--in an effort to define and classify types. This image was printed from a 5 x 7-inch glass plate that shows a full view of a young man's head. Two other prints from the same negative show that Sander progressively enlarged the image, omitting facial features until the eye alone filled the frame. That Sander would make an image of an eye is hardly coincidental; rather, it was only appropriate that an artist of the machine age would marvel at the human eye once he had mastered its analogue, the camera's mechanical eye. Sander depicted the left eye of his son Gunther, whom he had trained to assist him in the studio and darkroom--an eye that served him, like the camera's eye, as an extension of his own.
Inscription: Blindstamp on print recto, BL: "AUG. SANDER // KÖLN // LINDENTHAL"; Paper label with typewritten text [removed from print verso] , TL: "Fotovermerk: Studien zum Menschengesicht // Auge eins 18 jähr. jungen Mannes - Foto Aug. Sander, Köln"; Inscribed in pencil on print verso, TR: "Hugo von Gunther"; TC: "188."; BR: "G."; BL: "n.l.? // SG/065/X"; inscribed in black ink, print verso, TL: [illegible, in German]; photographer's stamp in blue ink on print verso, C: "Reproduktion d[illegible] mit // Genehmigung u. [illegible] des Urhebers // Aug. Sander, Köln - Lindenthal, // sowie unier [illegible] Beleg- // Ex er [illegible] // (Geseiz bet: [illegible] 1907)"
Gerd Sander, Washington, D.C. (grandson of the photographer); Donna Scheier, New York; Scott Eliot, New York; Nina Rosenwald, New York; [Paul Katz]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, August 26, 1977
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "From the Gilman Collection: Photographs Preserved in Ink," November 15, 1984–February 26, 1985.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 34," February 25, 2003–June 22, 2003.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. pl. 168.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 355.