August Sander is born on November 17 in Herdorf to August Sander sen., a mining carpenter, who was later disabled, and Justine Sander, née Jung. August Sander junior has six siblings. He attends the local elementary school.
Works on the mining waste tip at Herdorf iron-ore mine. Strikes up an acquaintance with a professional photographer from Siegen, who arouses his interest in photography. With the financial support of his uncle, he buys his first photographic equipment.
Military service and training under Trier-based photographer Georg Jung. He spends years traveling to Berlin, Magdeburg, Halle, Leipzig and Dresden, among others, and works in various photographic studios. Also interested in painting. Works for the Photographische Kunstanstalt Greif in Linz on the Danube (Austria), which together with a partner he takes over in 1902, only to later run it on his own. He becomes a member of the Upper Austrian Art Society (approx. 1904-9). In his Atelier für bildmäßige Photographie Sander offers “photographic works of every kind”. Sander receives numerous prizes for his photographs, which are frequently exhibited. In 1902 he marries Anna Seitenmacher. Birth of their sons Erich (1903) and Gunther (1907).
Relocates to Cologne. Birth of the twins Sigrid and Helmut (1911), but only Sigrid survives. Expands his studio work in Cologne’s Lindenthal district at Dürener Strasse 201. Begins photographic work in the Westerwald region, producing images he will later incorporate into his work Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century). Sander is conscripted at the start of World War I and does not return until the end of the war in 1918. Anna Sander runs the business in his absence.
Intensive exchange with the Kölner Progressive artists group, above all with Franz Wilhelm Seiwert and Heinrich Hoerle. The ideas and concept for his large portrait project Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts mature. First presentation of the project in the Cologne Kunstverein (November 1927); that same spring he travels to Sardinia with the author Ludwig Mathar. As a preview to Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts the illustrated publication Antlitz der Zeit [Face of Our Time] is published in 1929. Sander holds a series of six lectures on the topic “The Essence and Development of Photography” in the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (1931). Sander’s son Erich, a member of the SAPD (German Socialist Workers Party), which is banned from 1933, is informed on and condemned to ten years’ imprisonment (1934). The National Socialists prevent delivery of Antlitz der Zeit and destroy the printing plates. Publishers L. Schwann, Düsseldorf, and L. Holzwarth, Bad Rothenfelde, publish six booklets each portraying a region of Germany (1933–1935). The images they contain by August Sander, but also taken by Erich Sander for the family business, address various topics focusing on landscape and architecture. Sander also produces botanic studies and detailed studies, for example of hands. Sander realizes numerous commissions in the areas of industry and advertising. The ongoing war obliges the Sanders to leave Cologne. They begin the move to their new home in the Westerwald village, Kuchhausen, in 1942. The Cologne studio is destroyed by bombing. Sander is able to salvage the most important sections of the archive and transport them to his new home (1942-3).
Sander’s son Erich dies in the Siegburg prison (1944) from an untreated and acute ruptured appendix. 25,000 to 30,000 negatives, which were stored in the cellar of their Cologne flat are destroyed in a fire (January 1946). Though the conditions are difficult he continues to devote himself to his many photographic projects. August Sander keeps up the contacts from his time in Cologne
At the initiative of photography publisher and sponsor L. Fritz Gruber, exhibition featuring August Sander’s works at the second photokina (1951) and visit by Edward Steichen, Director of the photography department of the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1952). Sale of the portfolio project Köln, wie es war (Cologne as it once was) to the City of Cologne (1953). Participates in the traveling exhibition curated by Steichen, The Family of Man (1955). Given the freedom of his native village Herdorf (1958). Special issue of the Swiss monthly magazine du (1959). Order of the Federal Republic of Germany, first class and awarded the prize of the German Society for Photography (1960/61). Publication of the book Deutschenspiegel with an introduction by Heinrich Lu?tzeler (1962).
Anna Sander dies on May 27 in Kuchhausen.
August Sander dies on April 20 in Cologne.