Wandering through the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few years ago, I stumbled upon an exhibit that summarized ‘People of the 20th Century’, a photo-documentary by the German photographer August Sander. The project documents Sander’s pictorial taxonomy of the people in his village, who fell into seven main categories: the Farmer, the Skilled Tradesman, the Woman, Classes and Professions, the Artists, the City, and the Last People. The project was Sander’s life work. His egalitarian representation of the German society eventually caught the attention of the Third Reich, who over a se- ries of years destroyed three quarters of his negatives, forced him into semi-exile, and killed his son.
The photographs were luminous. Consistently working with simple, black and white portraiture shot in natural light allowed the series of images to form their own repre- sentational datum working alongside the content of the images. By creating a taxon- omy of daily life, he created an additional narrative of subject matter. For the viewer, what was a relatively abstract presentation of stark images now had multiple entry points (the representation, the project structure, and the image composition), uniting the work into a cohesive, accessible whole. And the images had a clarity free from constraints imposed by romanticism, sentimentality, or nostalgia – as Sander himself said, “I never make a person look bad; they do that themselves. The portrait is your mirror. It’s you.”
‘Jamboree’ is that mirror, formed from music.