Circus workers, Cologne, ca. 1926

aka. Indian Man and German Woman
August Sander, part six

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Zirkusarbeiter, Köln, 1926 (Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv)

August Sander (1876–1964) was a German portrait and documentary photographer. He has been described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century”. August Sander took a methodological approach in his monumental documentary project People of the 20th Century. He classified his photographs into seven groups and multiple sub-groups, reflecting the social structures and developments of his time. This portrait is from the portfolio entitled ‘Travelling People – Fair and Circus’ within the sixth group, ‘The City’. It is one of a series of photographs that August Sander took of performers and other members of the famous Barum Circus. Between 1926 and 1929 the circus toured the Rhineland cities of Dortmund, Remscheid and Cologne. Sander portrayed the circus people as representatives of a certain urban type that he named ‘travelling people’, which also included vagrants and gypsies. The caravans, tents and makeshift domestic environments depicted in the photographs of the members of the Barum Circus emphasise the nomadic nature of their lives. During the Weimar era (1918–33) circus caravans wound their way across Germany, occupying urban wastelands and other ‘in-between’ spaces, momentarily revitalising them as sites of wonder, exoticism and permissiveness. In the popular culture of Sander’s Germany, the mobile circus milieu was synonymous with ‘dangerous’ and ‘primitive’ types – particularly gypsies and people of colour. Sander’s dispassionate circus shots feature both these ‘types’. Historians have used them to illustrate the photographer’s liberal values, values that led to his victimisation under Nazism.
The Circus Barum was founded in 1878 by the East Prussian animal dealer Carl Froese in Konigsberg as Barum’s American Caravan menagerie. After the death of Carl Froese in 1907, his daughter Helene took over the management together with her husband, the animal trainer Arthur Kreiser. From 1935, Margarete Kreiser-Barum, the daughter of Kreisers, continued the family business. She run the circus successfully through the years of the Second World War until it was destroyed in a bomb attack in 1944. In 1946, she dared a new beginning and toured with a new Circus Barum until her death in 1970.  In 1972, Gerd Siemoneit-Barum bought the circus and directed it until 2008. On 26 October 2008 the last performance of the Circus Barum took place in Northeim. Rebecca Siemoneit-Barum and her company Barum & Bauer Performance GmbH took over a part of the animal stock and staff. Since 2012, she is presenting the “Circus Barum Weihnachtsspektakel” in Gottingen.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: August Sander
Tate Papers, Katherine Tubb: “Face to Face? An Ethical Encounter with Germany’s Dark Strangers in August Sander’s People of the Twentieth Century”
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur
August Sander Foundation
Tate, London
Wikipedia: Circus Barum (in German)

See also my other posts about August Sander’s work
Widower with his sons, Cologne, 1914
Confirmation candidate, 1911
The Notary, Cologne, 1924
National Socialist, Germany, 1937
Officer
Cadet, Germany, 1944

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