Eye of an Eighteen-Year-Old Young Man

August Sander German

Not on view

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.

Eye of an Eighteen-Year-Old Young Man, August Sander (German, 1876–1964), Gelatin silver print

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