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Photography between Narrativity and Stasis: August Sander, Degeneration, and the Decay of the Portrait Author(s): George

Baker Reviewed work(s): Source: October, Vol. 76 (Spring, 1996), pp. 72-113 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/778773 . Accessed: 05/03/2012 22:06
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Photography between Narrativity and Stasis: August Sander, Degeneration, and the Decay of the Portrait*


What are they searchingfor in the Heavens, all these blind people? -Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal

What is great in Man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in Man is that he is an overgoing and an undergoing, a transition and a decline [ein Ubergang und ein Untergang]. -Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra

of conceiving photographic meaning as What would be the consequences torn between the forces of narrativity and those of stasis? By narrativity, necessarily I mean simply those techniques that sustain a readable discourse, involving duration, movement, and inevitably a certain sense of plurality. Stasis, on the other hand, involves signifying properties that are diametrically opposed to those of narrativity, encompassing primarily the petrifaction of motion, the freezing of time, and instead of plurality, the fixed or repetitive motif. Narrativity, with its inherent embrace of duration, of time, can be conceived of as essential to the operations of a historical consciousness, while stasis, with its refusal of duration, would logically seem to be linked to the antihistorical, and even to the spatial zone of the unconscious. Defined in this way, I am not yet attaching any value to either narrativity or stasis (although that will eventually be my judgments effects of narrativity and stasis are both varied and goal): the ideological
* This paper developed out of a 1994 seminar on the history and theory of photography, directed by Benjamin Buchloh at Columbia University. It has entailed many intellectual debts: thanks go to Maud Lavin for first introducing me, several years ago, to August Sander's work. From its inception to its revision, this project and this author have benefited immeasurably from Buchloh's suggestions and criticisms. I would also like to thank Hal Foster for his editorial counsel, Silvia DiPierdomenico for her criticisms, and my colleagues in the 1994-95 Whitney Museum Independent Study Program for their thoughts shared after a presentation of this paper. OCTOBER76, Spring 1996, pp. 73-113. ? 1996 October Instituteof Magazine,Ltd. and Massachusetts Technology.

August Sander.Children of Diren Home for the Blind. Circa1930-31.



contingent, as we shall see. When conflated as a force with the textual and with the release of pluralistic, transgressive effects, narrativity has been celebrated by recent theories of poststructuralism; conversely, narrativity has also been treated in union with more conventional ideas about narrative where it is viewed as a mode of signification that depends upon the inevitable repression of a "desiring mode of operation," a repression upon which Western metaphysics itself has traditionally depended. Stasis, to cite just some general ideas, has been regarded as that force which disrupts the repressions of narrativity, or conversely, as a force of repression itself, as an imposition of the monolithic and unmoving.1 To conceive of photographic meaning as torn necessarily between these two poles would at first seem to be a counterintuitive move. The defining characteristic of the photographic medium is its dependency on stasis alone; the opposing definitions of narrativity and stasis that I have just set up are exactly the traditional modes that have served to set apart cinema from photography, the narrative sequence from the production of the "still" image. Roland Barthes, writing on photography's inherent involvement with stasis, has called this condition of photography its Totality-of-Image-a term meant to signify the photograph's achievement through stasis of the appearance of being complete or integral, and to this fullness he contrasted the flux of cinema.2 Now, no matter how much Barthes's specific theorization of photography exceeds traditional modernist interpretations of the photographic, with this account we still seem to remain within the realm of a medium-determined formulation. For such formulations, no doubt, conceiving of photographic meaning as constructed between narrativity and stasis would indeed be counterintuitive. However, is such a medium-centered definition sufficient to account for the vagaries of photographic meaning,for the politics and material underpinnings of its representational strategies? The drive to define the semiotic capabilities of photography ontologically, to the signifying potential of photography a firm, fixed ground, has always been give a somewhat conflicted project. Perceived as itself a device to register the "fixation" of phenomena and objects, photography has always had an uncanny ability to exceed, erode, and unfix such static visual certainties. From the vantage point of the present, as digital technologies increasingly divest the photographic signifier of its referential ground, we can better see the many ways in which even conventional photographic practices have engaged in activities whose meaning effects

1. I am thinking, for example, of the theoretical work of Roland Barthes in connection with the equation of transgressive qualities with the forces of narrativity or textuality. Leo Bersani, for one, has eloquently and productively explored a differing conception of narrativity in his deconstruction of the Freudian psychoanalytic text, a deconstruction generally staged around the opposition of the "narrative binding of thought" and the interruption of any such cohesiveness by repetition and the forces of stasis. See TheFreudianBody:Psychoanalysis Art (New York:Columbia University Press, 1986). and 2. Barthes, CameraLucida (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), pp. 89-90. This description of photography occurs in the chapter titled "Stasis."

between Photography Narrativityand Stasis


were as unmooring as they were mooring, as semiotically fluid as they were fixing. The reasons for this conflictual state are semiotic, at least in part: photography's inherent indexicality does serve to link referent and signifier in a direct, physical way. At the same time, however, photography's indexicality results in a severing of the connection between photographic "author" and product: in any photograph, the object depicted has impressed itself through the agency of light and chemicals alone, inscribing a referential excess beyond the control of the creator of any given image.3 While the severing of this link between the subjectivity of the author and the photographic product was often compensated for by excessive claims for photography's subsequent "objectivity,"any consideration of the nature of photographic meaning has to reincorporate the subjective dimension in turning to photography's ability to be read. On this level, photographic meaning becomes inherently slippery, and the history of photography has shown the manifest ways in which photography has served as a medium of betrayal as much as of enlightenment, its instrumentalization as a communicator of visual fact often beguiled by the potential for photography to enter into the realm of the fictional and propagandistic. In light of this, recent photographic criticism has turned away from what we might call a (modernist) ontology of the photographic image toward a pragmatics or even a rhetoric of photography. Arguing against modernist conceptions of the purity of photographic meaning, Allan Sekula for one has repeatedly insisted on regarding photographic meaning as a hybrid construction, depending on both textual and contextual factors in order to be capable of being read. It is in this same vein that I offer the "counterintuitive" proposal of regarding photographic meaning as necessarily torn between narrativity and stasis. The question needs to be asked, when does such a conception of photographic meaning become necessary? In light of the ponderous legacy of both modernist photographic practices and theory, when does it become obligatory to betray the static purity of the photographic medium? Would such a conception of photographic meaning legitimate certain political interventions in the discourse of photography, and is this legitimation supported by historical necessity? If it remains my burden to prove that such necessity exists, conceiving of photographic meaning as torn between narrativity and stasis nevertheless provides a productive model for expressing the particular position of the photography associated with the rise of the Neue Sachlichkeit period in Weimar Germany. Less a movement than a shared set of cultural attitudes, the term Neue Sachlichkeit (roughly New Objectivity or Sobriety) seems to have been coined by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub as the title for a 1925 exhibition at the Mannheim art gallery consisting of art that rejected the fragmentation of Impressionism and Expressionism in favor of, as Hartlaub put it, "loyalty to a positively tangible
3. These thoughts on my part have been greatly influenced by conversation with Rachel Baum and by a reading of her as-yet-unpublished manuscript on digital photographic technologies, "Sex Machine: Fetishism and the Digital Feminine."



reality."4In line with such a sentiment and with then-hegemonic conceptions of the photographic, photography came to occupy a privileged place among the aesthetic activities of this historical moment. Neue Sachlichkeit corresponded in duration to what has been called the "period of stabilization" in Germany; as such, considering my model in a purely metaphorical way, Neue Sachlichkeit itself existed between "narrativity," the upheavals of the First World War and the revolutions that followed it, and "stasis,"or the failure of the parliamentary system of the Weimar Republic and the seizure of power by Hitler.5 Considered more literally and on a formal level, this model is especially fitting for analyzing the work of the photographer August Sander, whose work has been embraced since its initial reception as an exemplar of the socially engaged wing of Neue Sachlichkeit photography, in opposition to the more aesthetic (one could substitute fetishistic) explorations of a Karl Blossfeldt or Albert Renger-Patzsch. The project that has maintained Sander's reputation both as one of the formidable photographers of Weimar and as a socially committed artist was his monumental aspiration to create a photographic typology of Weimar society,
which he called Citizens of the Twentieth Century (hereafter cited as Citizens). In many

respects, Sander's is an exceedingly melancholic project-for one, it was never completed (for both logistic and political reasons).6 But it is also melancholic in ways that only photography can be; again, Barthes attributed this melancholic disposition to photography's static character, but also to its ghostly insistence on something that was (as an indexical trace). Sander's work partakes of this melancholy disposition common to photography's "tense" (which Barthes more precisely placed as the future anterior: this will have been), but the project also intersects with a more specific field of cultural and "political melancholia" particular to Weimar Germany. Here, Walter Benjamin becomes our primary guide; in preparing the productivist position he would take in his well-known essay "The Author as Producer," Benjamin had launched an earlier attack on the morose political ineffectiveness he believed was common to the "leftist"literary proponents of the Neue Sachlichkeit as a whole. Surveying the movement's political position in a short essay entitled "Left-Wing Melancholy," Benjamin charged that this supposedly leftist literature was entirely alienated from the historically important spheres of production and from the working class. Even worse, Benjamin believed that such work helped to aestheticize the political struggle itself, thus ultimately
4. For general background information on Neue Sachlichkeit and the wide variety of attitudes it encompassed, see Jost Hermand, "Unity within Diversity? The History of the Concept 'Neue Sachlichkeit,"' in Cultureand Societyin the Weimar Republic(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), pp. 166-82. 5. Of course, applied in this manner, this model particularizes Neue Sachlichkeit too much; Neue Sachlichkeit corresponds in a complex way to the wider field of countermodernist reactions that took place in Europe after 1915. 6. In this, Sander's project reflects the experience of Neue Sachlichkeit as a whole, which never cohered as a movement, and in Hermand's opinion, remained "an incomplete concept." See Hermand, "Unity within Diversity,"p. 167.

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serving the bourgeois by allowing this struggle to be harmlessly consumed. This is by now a familiar argument; in the end, Benjamin considered the larger body of Neue Sachlichkeit work equivalent to the way in which "poor rich folk play the blues."7 The extent to which Sander shared this melancholic position with his contemporaries must be clarified. Recent accounts of Sander's photography, however, have turned to both the semiotic and contextually melancholic elements of the project to call its effectiveness (and thereby its photographic legacy) into of this critique, at least, has been motivated by the domination of question. Part such a documentary photographic project by photography's inherent dependency on the forces of stasis.8 Writing in tandem with such recent critiques, part of my task here will be to complicate such claims both for the photographic and for Sander's project; the task for a critical photographic history of Sander's project, while accounting for its melancholic character, may indeed lie in determining just what exactly are the effects of its intentional or unintentional flirtation with the opposite forces of narrativity. One of the most interesting formal aspects of Sander's Citizens is precisely its imbrication of the narrative sequence within the practices of traditional still photography (this hybridization, I believe, accounts for the larger part of any continued interest in Sander's work). Such formal hybridity confounds the easy identification of Sander's photographic language as a fully static one; on the other hand, it just as fully problematizes the specific and troubling narrative that Sander actually did posit to society, a narrative that entailed antimodernist claims to the marked devolution of the social sphere. This narrative of social devolution lays the groundwork for the claims I will make for the formal devolution of Sander's photographic language, a devolution that gives rise to the uncanny that are undeniably present in his photographic work. Attempting to aspects locate the uncanny at the heart of Sander's participation in the project of the "New Objectivity" positions this account along the lines of Hal Foster's recent retheorization of Surrealism, and this is not a coincidence.9 The repressions unlocked by the uncanny within the milieu of Surrealism are just as present in its dialectical counterpart in antimodernism, Neue Sachlichkeit; the profound linkages between the two contemporaneous reactions to the First World War have not yet

7. See Walter Benjamin, "Left-Wing Melancholy," trans. Ben Brewster, Screen15 (Summer 1974), Dialectics:Walter pp. 28-32. For more information on the essay's context, see Max Pensky, Melancholy Benjaminand thePlay of Mourning (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993). 8. For the parameters of a formal critique of Sander's work, based on the inherent limitations of individual still photography, see Buchloh, "Thomas Struth's Archive," Thomas Struth: Photographs (Chicago: Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 1990), p. 8. For the parameters of a social critique of Sander's work, based on revealing the manner in which Sander's photography imparts an illusory stasis to social forces that were necessarily in flux, see Allan Sekula, "The Traffic in Photographs," ArtJournal 41, no. 1 (Spring 1981), p. 19. Both critiques, of course, depend upon the inextricable connections between the formal and the social, historical position of the photograph. 9. See Hal Foster, Compulsive Beauty(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993), where Foster thinks the surreal as precisely the uncanny itself.



been registered by art history or photographic history.l( While Surrealism made an aesthetic and political project of unleashing these repressions and embracing the uncanny, it will be my contention that Sander's particular version of Neue Sachlichkeit achieved similar effects despite itself, the claims of the work ultimately betrayed by the sudden imbrication of quite specific historical and photographic forces.
Between the Circle and the Type

In the summer of 1934, Kurt Wolff, Sander's publisher at Transmare Verlag, informed the photographer that the Nazi Ministry of Culture had ordered the
seizure of Sander's photo book Antlitz der Zeit. Published in 1929, Antlitz der Zeit

(The Face of the Time) consisted of sixty photographs intended to sketch for a wide audience the scope of Sander's larger project.11 The printing plates and remaining copies of the book were destroyed by the Nazis. Overall, 1934 was a particularly tragic year for Sander, for in addition to censoring his book, the Nazis repeatedly searched his archives, confiscated valuable negatives, and eventually forced Sander to give up work on Citizensentirely. Sander's eldest son, Erich, was also sentenced in 1934 to ten years in prison for "high treason." A committed became ill and Communist, Erich Sander would not survive this sentence-he died in 1944 while still languishing in a Nazi jail. These events were tragic, and I indeed have no desire to trivialize them. However, they have had an inordinate effect upon the reception of Sander's work, acting in much of the existing literature on the photographer as "proof" of Sander's "politically engaged" photographic practice. As a matter of fact, Sander's personal political stance was both much less radical and much harder to define than his son's, and the political effectiveness of his work may or may not have been the reason for the Nazis' enmity. Much more serious claims for Sander's work have been made, and it is to these that I would like to turn in introducing the scope of his project. The American photographer Walker Evans praised Sander's "photographic editing of society" as a "cultural necessity," securing Sander a place of recognition among
10. Theodor Adorno realized the precise interrelationship of the two movements, which he portrayed in the following manner: "Surrealism forms the complement of the Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, which came into being at the same time. .... [It] gathers up the things the Neue Sachlichkeit denies to human beings; the distortions attest to the violence that prohibition has done to the objects of desire" ("Looking Back on Surrealism,"in Noteson Literature, vol. 1, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen [New York: Columbia University Press, 1991], pp. 89-90). 11. Antlitz der Zeit (1929; reprint, Munich: Schirmer Mosel, 1976). As the sixty photographs in Antlitz der Zeitwere the only portion of Sander's project chosen, sequenced, and published by Sander during his lifetime, writing on the larger project presents some difficulties. The reader should note that in this essay when I refer to Sander's larger project I am referring to Ulrich Keller and Gunther Sander's reconstruction of Citizens(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986). If some issues of cropping, sequencing, etc., must thus be regarded with caution, I believe that Sander's project can, through this reconstruction, be discussed in its general scope and particular power-Keller has followed instructions for the ordering of the photographs that Sander did detail during his lifetime.


Part-time Student. (ErichSander). Circa1926.

the photographers of this country.12 In Germany, however, Sander had no less of a champion than Walter Benjamin, who excluded Sander's work from the criticism he leveled against many of the other photographers and writers of the Neue Sachlichkeit. In his "Short History of Photography," Benjamin both compared Sander's portrait typology to the "physiognomic galleries" of Eisenstein or Pudovkin, referring to the anonymous, class-determined figures in their films, and went on to claim a vital political use for Sander's "comparative photography."l3 A time of power shifts, Benjamin asserted, such as we face, generally allow[s] the education and sharpening of the physiognomic conception into a vital necessity. One may come from the right or left-he will have to get used to being viewed according to where he comes from. One will have to see others the same way. Sander's work is more than a book of pictures: it is a training manual [Ubungsatlas] 14
12. Walker Evans, "The Reappearance of Photography,"Hound & Horn 5, no. 1 (October/December 1931), p. 128. 13. Benjamin's comparison between the Russian filmmakers and Sander's work has been questioned in a recent text by Buchloh, "Residual Resemblance: Three Notes on the Ends of Portraiture," in Art Face-Off: 'hePortraitin Recent (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1994), pp. 56-58. 14. Benjamin, "A Short History of Photography," in Classic Essays in Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New Haven: Leete's Island Books, 1980), p. 211. Translation slightly modified. See also Anne Halley, "August Sander," MassachusettsReview (Winter 1978), p. 668, for an interesting



Benjamin insisted, in fact, that Sander's work included photographs of faces that were no longerportraits,but instead he stressed their organization into illuminating series. Here, I believe, we begin to see how sympathetic critics of Sander's work have immediately caught on to what could be called a narrative element operating in his project (or at least an element of movement, of serialization), and have portrayed this aspect of the work as the project's most important property. Such praise from Benjamin forces the consideration of the exact nature of the basic parameters framing Sander's Citizens. It must be remembered that Sander was a commercial portrait photographer, a career that he maintained throughout his association with the artistic factions of Weimar. Sander occupies a peculiar position in such configurations; fully distancing himself from what he considered to be the "kitsch" elements of conventional portraiture, Sander's "exact photography" (the label under which he advertised his work) just as fully rejected most of the avant-garde formal manipulations of photography as well. Distanced from montage effects as well as from the techniques of severe camera angles and close-ups, this is one reason his work is traditionally considered under the rubric of Neue Sachlichkeit instead of the differentiated practices associated with the New Vision photography, or the Neue Optik, as Moholy-Nagy called it. Both groups, however, shared the general outlook of the period in their belief that they were pursuing both "reality"and "truth";Moholy-Nagy would claim that in New Vision photography "the unambiguousness of the real, the truth in the everyday situation is there for all classes. The hygiene of the optical, the health of the visible is slowly filtering through."15Sander's entire photographic practice was centered around a similar obsession with "truth" (it is the obsessiveness of this practice that will become interesting for us), with an "objectivity" that Sander believed was formally grounded in his work, and if anything differentiates Sander from the Weimar avant-garde context, it is exactly these formal procedures. The photographic practices inscribed in Citizens for the most part typical are of those used by other Neue Sachlichkeit photographers like Renger-Patzsch. While these practices have become increasingly important to a number of contemporary photographers, they had only one major historical precedent in the history of photography before Sander: the work of Eugene Atget.16 As is the case with Atget's "oeuvre," if it can be called that, two principles act as the productive mechanisms shaping the whole of Sander's project, namely the related concepts
illumination of the sensitive context in which Benjamin called Sander's work a "training manual" (the preeminent and best-selling photographic training manuals of the time were those of protofascist racial theorists). 15. Cited in Christopher Phillips, "Resurrecting Vision: The New Photography in Europe between the Wars,"in TheNew Vision(New York:Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989), p. 38. 16. In the passage by Walker Evans cited above, he fully realized this lineage already in 1931. Quoting him now in full, Evans wrote the following about Sander's work: "This is one of the futures of photography foretold by Atget. It is a photographic editing of society, a clinical process; even enough of a cultural necessity to make one wonder why other so-called advanced countries of the world have not also been examined and recorded" ("The Reappearance of Photography," p. 128).

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Street Workers. Circa1928-29.

of both system and archive.17Sander's ambition was to present a series of portrait photographs that would catalogue, in essence, the total existing social world of Weimar. The unequivocably positivist slant of Sander's goal finds its correlate in the systematic attempt at technical objectivity on Sander's part, for the photographs he made for the project are remarkably uniform in their style and mode of presentation. Their uniform style, however, is not conceived in a manner that attempts to inscribe Sander's personal touch as a photographer. Rather, these photographs rely on already-established conventions of portrait photography (this is their system):their style works ultimately to belie style, to suppress what could be
17. Although Atget's photographs were being recovered by the Surrealists in the 1920s and were included in the "Film und Foto" exhibition in Stuttgart, Sander probably had limited knowledge of his work. I therefore do not mean to posit an intentional, intellectually conceived link between Sander and Atget, but rather one that is discursively linked to the institutionof photography itself.



called Sander's "author function." Having once put it in place, Sander hardly varies this system. Most of the photographs for Citizensare individual portraits, although as part of his constructive, or as Keller calls it, "architectural approach" to photography, Sander builds in the various sections of the typology from individuals to portraits of couples and from there to group portraits of families or clubs. Sander confronts each subject deliberately with the camera, and they are given the opportunity to pose; the typology contains no snapshots. Each subject is usually shown in the environ of his work or life situation, and most are displayed in full-length or three-quarter portraits, alwaysin a serious mood.18 Sander's personal files of negatives number well into the tens of thousands; the ultimate shape of Citizens was to have included 45 portfolios of 12 images each, or 540 images. With this one witnesses what Rosalind Krauss has described as the "repetitive rhythm of accumulation" characteristic of Neue Sachlichkeit, and the inauguration of the model of the archive-rather than a simple documentary system of individual still images-as the site in which knowledge will be produced.19 An archival system carries with it a host of institutional baggage that Sander's project cannot escape, but indeed promotes. For the logic of the archive is the logic of loss and control; the history of archival projects parallels and depends upon the history of the use of photography. At the moment when Haussmann's modernization of Paris threatened the fabric of the ancient city, just then do we witness photography (and photographers like Marville and Atget) dutifully recording the buildings and streets slated to be destroyed; at the moment when expansionism and manifest destiny threatened the American West and the lifestyle of the Native Americans, just then do we witness the compilation of photographic archives consisting of both the disappearing landscapes and the soon-to-be ghettoized Native American people.20 If any kind of archive can be said to be more inherently bound up with the logic of loss and control, it would be exactly those archives constructed in the nineteenth century around the conventions of the photographic portrait-I am thinking specifically of those archives
18. See Ute Eskildsen, "Photography and the Neue Sachlichkeit Movement," in Neue Sachlichkeit and Realismof the Twventies German (London: Hayward Gallery, 1979), p. 90, for an overview of the context of Sander's photographic system. For the parameters that an institutional critique of photographic practices modeled on the 19. system of the archive would take, see Rosalind Krauss's indispensable essay, "Photography's Discursive Spaces," in The Originalityof the Avant-Gardeand OtherModernistMyths (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), pp. 131-50. The connection between social control and those areas that photography has so effectively 20. made its own-the face and the landscape-has been powerfully articulated by Gilles Deleuze as part of what he calls "faciality" (visagiite): "The face has a correlate of great importance: the landscape, which is notjust a milieu but a deterritorialized world.... Face and landscape manuals formed a pedagogy, a strict discipline, and were an inspiration to the arts as much as the arts were an inspiration to them. Architecture positions its ensembles-houses, towns, or cities, monuments or factories-to function like faces in the landscape they transform. Painting takes up the same movement but also reverses it, Felix Guattari, A Thousand positioning a landscape as a face, treating one like the other" (Deleuze and Plateaus: Capitalismand Schizophrenia [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987], p. 172).

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associated with criminology and criminalistics that constructed the criminal body for the nineteenth century as part of larger networks and techniques of social control.21 While Sander's project, most likely against the photographer's conscious intentions, speaks eloquently about the losses associated with industrialization and the techniques of control inscribed within the work are not so modernization, clearly articulated. For it remains Sander's unique position to have intentionally placed such an archival portrait project in a discursive space positioned ambiguously between a political sociology and an aesthetic proclamation. Sander's archive thus As archives are inherently hybrid constructions, becomes doubly so, doubly involved in the logic of what I would call the between, l'entre. As Sekula has argued, photographic the poststructuralist archives, like photography itself, are suspended between the discourses of science and art, providing a dual collision with both empirical and aesthetic truth. It would be useful to quote Sekula at length on the language employed to reach such "truth": Within bourgeois culture, the photographic project itself has from the very beginning been identified not only with the dream of a universal language, but also with the establishment of global archives and repositories according to models offered by libraries, encyclopedias, zoological and botanical gardens, museums, police files and banks.... As for the truths, their philosophical basis lies in an aggressive empiricism, bent on achieving a universal inventory of appearance. Archival projects typically manifest a compulsive desire for completeness, a faith in an ultimate coherence imposed by the sheer quantity of acquisitions. In practice, knowledge of this sort can only be organized according to bureaucratic means.22 Inasmuch as Sander's Citizens depends upon an archival representational strucand hierarchy of knowledge, a ture, it replicates the bourgeois stratification stratification that was under attack at the very moment and historical location of Sander's project-through the increasing rationalization of modern industrial life and through the increasing collectivization of modern social life, and the latter through the dual options of communism on the left and fascism on the right. This is itself an ambiguous, contradictory condition for a photographic project that was supposedly of a leftist, socially critical bent. Inasmuch as Citizens also depends on a formal structure historically mediated by this situation, it finds itself doubly caught up within the logic of the "between." Sekula, again, has characterized the archival structure itself as formally torn "between narration and categoriza21. My statements here of course depend upon the inaugural work of Sekula in his study of such photographic criminal archives. See "The Body and the Archive," in The Contest Meaning, ed. Richard of Bolton (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991). 22. Sekula, "Photography between Labor and Capital," in Mining Photographsand OtherPictures, Photographsby Leslie Shedden,ed. Benjamin Buchloh and Robert Wilkie (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1983), p. 197.



tion, between chronology and inventory."23 Ultimately, this is the logic enacted by in Sander's hands, in which a systematically produced series of still photography images are arranged into an archival typology that forces a confrontation between narrativity and stasis on the level of photographic meaning. Indeed, it is one of the historical contributions of Sander's work and of Neue Sachlichkeit photography in general to have adopted the archival model, thus contributing to the photographic possibility of this confrontation. Now, if Sander's project takes shape formally between the two related concepts of system and archive, it takes shape philosophically between another two related concepts, the "circle" and the "type." These two ideas correspond, more or less precisely, to the opposition between narrativity and stasis that I have been elaborating. By the "circle," I mean to signal the actual form that Sander's arrangement of the photographic typology eventually took, narrativizing the social world of Weimar in a circular format that returned modern "uprooted" man to the chains of his "earthbound" origins. I will return in a moment to the full consequences of this narrativization. First, however, I want to turn to the latter idea just mentioned, the more fully static of the two philosophical structures at work in Sander's photography: the concept of the "type,"the universal characteristic to which many lesser phenomena correspond, was both a common and a highly debated idea during the Weimar period. While it would be useful to examine fully the various attitudes toward the type that were circulating during Weimar, let it suffice to say that such ideas were shared across a wide range of philosophical and ideological perspectives. This, however, does not mitigate the fact that perhaps the best-known example of such thinking was the Nazi philosophical emphasis on the Stdmme,the originary Germanic tribes, rooted in the earth. The metaphor of an Ur-type, an originary archetype such as these Stdmme, was completely shared by Sander: his typology begins with what he called the or Stamm-Mappe, the "Germinal Portfolio."24As Sander wished each of his forty-five portfolios to contain twelve images, this one consists of twelve images of farmers, intended to summarize the shape of the entire typology. Encapsulating his constructive, architectural method of ordering the photographs, this portfolio builds from four individual portraits of male farmers, to four corresponding portraits of female farm wives, includes one extra photograph of a woman, and concludes with two portraits of couples and a final family portrait. Sander expressly considered these portraits as an archetypal summation of "generally human" characteristics and temperaments. They fulfill the following archetypal functions: the four men in order correspond to what Sander termed the
23. Ibid. 24. One should not too quickly conflate Sander's terminology here with Nazi racial theory, and to be fair as well as to avoid making this connection too stark, I should note that the German word Stamm translates as both "trunk"and "tribe." Sander may have intended, of course, to stress only the botanical, organic metaphor of the word in calling his originary portfolio the Stamm-Mappe.

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"earthbound man, the philosopher, the revolutionary, and the wise man," and the following four women correspond to these same categories for the female gender. The fifth woman Sander called "the woman of advanced intellect"; the two couples personify discipline and harmony; and the final family portrait brings this structure to an inclusive unity. As far as possible, Sander meant for this order to be replicated in the following portfolios, meaning that "a certain variety of basic human characteristics would have recurred on different social or cultural levels."25 The relationship of this recurrence to stasis seems clear. Sander sequenced the typology in such a way that he facilitated the static forces of repetition (whether or not he could control these forces is another matter entirely). His dependence upon the type foregrounded this structure, with which, redoubled through the static functioning of the photographic medium, Sander hoped to Such a construct, however, emphasiz"fix"or "hold fast the history of the world."26 stasis through a claim for the easy accessibility and ultimate validity of an ing originary cultural "rootedness," reiterates reactionary trends in Weimar philosophy and corresponds to their eventual adoption by Nazi theorists, and in this light it is troubling that modernist photographic criticism of Sander's work has embraced just this aspect of his photography as its most remarkable characteristic. John Szarkowski, in one of the earliest critical essays in America to treat Sander's work, claimed Sander as the progenitor of a photographic practice that could provide a welcome antidote to the 1960s American photographic context, with its concentration on the "ephemeral" and the "moment." Sander had achieved, in Szarkowski's words, the "expressive meaning of the prototype, of a sense of permanence, of stability. In learning how to photograph that which happens, we have forgotten how to photograph that which exists and prevails."27Embodying the most characteristic demands of modernist photographic criticism, with its concern for truth to the static character of the medium, such an attitude just as perfectly embodies the worst oversights of such criticism. Comprehending one crucial aspect of Sander's work, Szarkowski completely overlooks any intersections such a practice had with the social and historical field that made up Weimar Germany. Of course, the manner in which Sander put a typological structure to use was not quite so ideologically clear-cut. Considering Sander's emphasis on an organic (but repetitive) structure, with the earthbound farmer as an archetype for all of humanity, his use of typological thinking does seem most clearly connected to reactionary Weimar philosophies. In much of his typology, however, Sander presents portraits of individuals as types usually constructed in the public realm of
25. Keller, Citizens,p. 23. Sander uses this phrase frequently as a description of his aims in his text "Photography as a 26. Universal Language," Lecture Five of The Nature and Growthof Photography, German radio, 1931, in Massachusetts Review,trans. Anne Halley (Winter 1978); see pp. 676, 679. 27. John Szarkowski,"August Sander: The Portrait as Prototype," Infinity12, no. 6 (June 1963), p. 23. Szarkowski compares Sander to Paul Strand, who has also gone for the "enduring fact" in opposition to other photographers, who are as "rootless as a tumbleweed."

Farmer'sWife. (Cira 1912.

Three Generations of-a Farming Family. 1912.

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class and social profession: from craftsmen and the proletariat to the intellectual and political elite to the unemployed and destitute. This, of course, resembles the use to which Weimar leftists put typological schemes, stressing the decline of the category of the individual in relation to the new importance of collective formations. The use to which the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch put typological thinking had an expressly antifascist intent; in fact, his description of the contemporary state of Weimar society resembles Sander's in many particulars. Sander's typology could be called a visual representation of what Bloch called Ungleichzeitigkeit, (nonsynchronism): the simultaneous coexistence of types (of experience, of classes, of qualities) in the present that belong to past moments of history.28 Among the artists most closely associated with Sander, representing such nonsynchronous typological formations in present-day society was considered a critical action. The Cologne Progressive painters, all of whom Sander photographed and befriended during the 1920s, had embraced during that decade a loosely constructivist style and an expressly Marxist political stance toward art production. Sander's project took its definitive shape while he was in contact with their ideas: it was in 1921 that Franz Seiwert, whose actions were central to the group,
published a series of typological drawings called Gegensatz: Sieben Antlitze der Zeit

(Contradiction: Seven Faces of the Time), and in 1927 another member of the group, Gerd Arntz, would produce a different typological series of drawings entitled ZwolfHduserder Zeit (Twelve Houses of the Time).29 While of course Sander's title for Antlitz der Zeitcame from this association, much of his thought on typologies did as well. Another painter in the group, Heinrich Hoerle, assumed a painterly style that (like Seiwert's and Arntz's figures) embraced the anonymous "type"as a yearning for a collective belonging that could only be produced through revolution and was summarized in his personal dictum, "Depersonalize everything, use stereotypes, be a constructor!"30 Not unlike their Bauhaus contemporaries, the Cologne Progressives identified most strongly with the medieval epoch, as a period in which people had been portrayed not as individuals but as types
dieserZeitpublished A good overview of Bloch's ideas is contained in the excerpt from Erbschaft 28. as "Nonsynchronism and the Obligation to Its Dialectics" (1932), New German Critique11 (Spring 1977), pp. 22-38. I also find the use to which Maud Lavin puts Bloch's idea of nonsynchronism, as a theory of "cultural"montage, particularly insightful; for these ideas and more background information on Bloch, see Lavin's Cut with the KitchenKnife: The Weimar of Photomontages Hannah Hich (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993). For background information on these projects, the Cologne Progressives, and their connection 29. to Sander, see Richard Pommer's short but informative essay "August Sander and the Cologne Progressives,"Art in America(January-February 1976), pp. 38-39, and Uli Bohnen's longer introduction to the group, "Construction between East and West: The Progressives of Cologne," in The Cologne 1919-1933 (New York: Rachel Adler Gallery, 1987), n.p. For readers of German, Bohnen Progressives, has written many longer pieces on the Cologne Progressives; for citations see VomDadamax bis zum Griingiirtel-Koln in den 20erJahren (Cologne: K6olnischerKunstverein, 1975). The interest of Arntz's actions in particular would merit further attention; concurrent with Sander's work on Citizens,Arntz collaborated with the sociologist Otto Neurath on a project that would fully functionalize his aesthetic language into a unique system of almost universally communicable typological signs. 30. Cited in Bohnen, "Construction between East and West,"n.p.


GerdArntz.Twelve Houses of the Time. 1927.

representative of their social caste and function. What seems from our perspective the overtly reactionary side of Sander's philosophy may in part be this: he too looked to the medieval to the typologies of trades and crafts period, then as a model for the present. As a political stance, (Stdndegesellschaft) produced the Progressives did not, of course, see this model as reactionary. They opposed all concepts of state politics and nationalism but instead upheld the principle of autonomous regions under a decentralized state structure that would employ the medieval model of society to build a new "coexistence" beyond all nationalism, embodied in another of their slogans, "from regionalism to internationalism."31 These reconciliations on the part of the leftists associated with the Cologne a medieval German past and a collective future, between a Progressives-between feudal structure and a modern international one-are regional problematic, however, in that they seem qualitatively similar to the type of reconciliations typical of the peculiarly German line of thought that Jeffrey Herf has labeled "reactionary modernism."32 The Marxist viewpoint of the Progressives provides
31. For more on these ideas, see ibid. Interesting in respect to this connection with the medieval, Alfred D6blin's introduction to Sander's AntlitzderZeitchose to illuminate Sander's position by comparing it to the medieval controversy between the nominalists and the realists. See D6blin, "About Faces, Portraits and Their Reality,"introduction to Antlitz der Zeit, trans. Marion Schneider, in Germany: The 1927-1933, ed. David Mellor (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978), pp. 55-59. Newu Photography, See Herf's entire study, ReactionaryModernism:'echnology,Cultureand Politics in Weimar 32. and the ThirdReich(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), for an overview of the intellectual history of this moment in Germany.

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one major difference between this circle and those avatars of reactionary modernism like Oswald Spengler or Ernst Jiinger, who rather embraced a taming of socialism to specific "Germanic" traditions-a "national Socialism." The similarity, however, to a reconciliation between future social structures and the German past, and also between technology and German Kultur or Seele (Soul), remains. Sander, in fact, was a great reader of Spengler, and he supposedly devoured
Spengler's magnum opus, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the

West). Also, Sander, unlike the other Cologne Progressives, was not explicitly a Marxist.33 His embrace of physiognomy as a credible system of human "truth" directly links his work to Spengler's approach to history, an approach that Spengler called a "morphological perspective." Physiognomy, especially for Spengler, was seen as an organic approach to historical analysis as opposed to a "mechanical" or scientific system. Spengler subtitled the first volume of Decline of the West"Gestalt und Wirklichkeit" (Form and Actuality). Gestalt, as opposed to laws and system, became Spengler's guide to history. Sander engaged this same approach inasmuch as he engaged a typological approach to humanity that used physiognomy as a key to social meaning. Inasmuch as his photographs depended instead on class position and social function, his typology warded off the perception of political and cultural life through aestheticcategories. In one of his more famous passages, Benjamin eloquently asserted that avoiding the path to fascism entailed avoiding the approach to life through Gestalt, an approach as typical of a theorist like Jiinger as it was of a historian like Spengler.34 As we have again and lies again seen with Sander's photography, his Citizens somewhere in the unfortunate area between these two approaches to the type, deeply embroiled in that gray quintessential Weimar battle between the aestheticization of political life and the politicization of art. It was, in fact, the lack of a systematic arrangement (as opposed to a systematic formal method) in Sander's project that drew the criticism of convinced Marxist members of the Cologne Progressives like Seiwert. In a review in the Cologne Progressivejournal A bis Z, Seiwert broadly praised Sander's specific work in Antlitz der Zeitfor its innovative, "objective"use of photography; fully supporting Sander's work, Seiwert, however, felt it necessary to wish for a "clearer sociological formulation" that would more strictly adhere to the concepts elaborated by Marx in Captial.35Sander had followed an arrangement in his project quite different
33. For the most part, the artists who belonged to the Cologne Progressives group had come of age during the First World War and were thus a full generation younger than Sander. He had not shared the formative experiences that drove them to believe in the necessity of their Marxist position. 34. See Benjamin's oft-quoted epilogue to the essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," in Illuminations(New York:Schocken Books, 1978). 35. See Seiwert, "August Sander: Antlitz der Zeit," A bis Z 6 (March 1930), p. 22. To clarify what he meant by this, Seiwert specifically cited the following lines by Marx from the preface to Capital:"But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other



from Marx's teleological ideas about history and society. Sander arranged his archival still images in the form of a circle,based on a cyclical model of society. Such a model is almost cruelly simple, resting upon a biological analogy that would compare social history to the individual birth, growth, and inexorable decay until death of organic life. In Sander's typology, the photographs were arranged with the intention that this clear narrative would be read: following his sequencing, we progress from portrait upon portrait of farmers, the "earthbound man," to craftsmen and the urban proletariat (in this schema magically residing together on the same social tier), upward through all the classes and professions to the "representatives of the highest civilization" (artists and intellectuals), and then back down to the "idiot," the dispossessed, the marginalized, the physically infirm. Departing from the firm ties of nature for a greater social autonomy, mankind in this typology finds itself inexorably circling back to this same nature, to bonds that are less social than they are physiological. In that the circle is the quintessential form of the organic structure, which moves only in fixed cycles, Sander's narrative intention was clearly to replicate the conceptions set forth by Spengler in Decline of the West;there Spengler had outlined not only an organic approach to culture but had used this approach to preach a moral message of the decline of Western man in the face of an "uprooted" present. True to a constructivist conception of photography, Sander intended his still images to be read in series; Sander's actual mass construction, however, was meant to produce a strangely static narrative. The narrative cycle moves, it is true, but it moves only to return to its origin; it moves in an ordered circulation, a circulation not only characteristic of the European concept of "organic structure" but also of the larger Western metaphysical construction of truth. As Jacques Derrida has observed, circular form is the form of the rhetoric of truth, and the question of truth is indeed that of "a regulated circulationthat organizes a return from the detour toward the hole. A transcendental reappropriation and a transcendental readequation fulfilling an authentic contract."36Derrida could almost be describing Sander's cyclical model of civilization as he continues, "Circulation permits the signified to return to its origin. This readequation (the truth) therefore indeed implies a theory of the proper place, and the latter implies a theory of the letter as an indivisible locality: the signifier must never risk being lost, destroyed, divided, or fragmented without return."37As Derrida points out, however, the materiality of the signifier insures its divisibility, insures the prospect that the signifier might not reach its destination. Tracing the scope of Sander's photographic project has led us through an
make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them." 36. Jacques Derrida, "Le Facteur de la Verite," in The Post Card:FromSocratesto Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 437. 37. Ibid., p. 438. The metaphors Derrida here deploys connoting ideas about space and placement will become increasingly important to the remainder of my critique of Sander's work.

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intentional balancing act performed by Sander between the forces of narrativity and stasis on the level of photographic meaning, a balancing act conceived between the circle and the type. The archival mediation of Sander's philosophically project, as we have already seen, presents some difficult problems for Sander's conceptualization of the project. Furthermore, as these intentions of Sander arguably attempt to impose an organic view of society that no longer existed by the 1920s in Germany, what other forms of narrativity and stasis are produced by Sander's photography? Does Sander's cycle potentially not reach its destination? How, in the end, are we to understand Benjamin's praise of Sander's photography, his insistence that Sander's photographs were both politically necessary and no longer portraits? A key, perhaps, lies in the fact that it was in "A Short History of Photography" that Benjamin not only praised Sander but also coined the term "the optical unconscious," as a direct result of his reading of Neue Sachlichkeit photographic practices. Beyond the perfected surface of Neue Sachlichkeit photography, a darker reality had come into view for the first time; Sander's work is no exception to this dynamic. Opening our analysis of his work to a consideration of the unconscious forces embodied there may point us beyond the characteristic obsession of Neue Sachlichkeit with objectivity and truth to a truly political practice and to specific historical perspectives on this moment in the development of For example, psychoanalysis in general comprehends that the photography. of the signifier, which Derrida both attempt to ward off the fragmentation and understood, is an attempt to control the forces of Unheimlichkeit, explored the uncanny.38 The desire to ward off Unheimlichkeit, one could say, becomes the constitutive logic behind Neue Sachlichkeit as a whole: the seamless unity of the Neue Sachlichkeit aesthetic rests upon a seething, chaotic (non)ground of both historical and psychic confusion. This confusion troubles Neue constantly Sachlichkeit's archival will to knowledge; the uncanny, that which is precisely "beyond knowledge" (the English meaning of the term), not only frustrates this drive but lies as its motive force. In Sander's specific case, such a motive force will entail several revisions to the narrative and static forces we have just considered, for it disrupts Sander's fluid narrative of social decay just as much as it unanchors the static immobility of his project's typological structure. What I want to begin to suggest is that this unanchoring and this disruption become most exacerbated toward the end of Sander's social hierarchy, precisely among the photographs he placed there to represent the visual decay of German society at his own historical moment. Turning to the more problematic dimensions of Sander's project and to his photography's treatment of social otherness, the issues we must consider would

38. Derrida describes the attempt at controlling the activity of Unheimlichkeit one which, in order to as maintain the transcendence of truth, blocks the "anguishing disarray"that the uncanny can provoke, "without any hope of reappropriation, of closure, or of truth-by references from simulacrum to simulacrum, from double to double" (ibid., p. 460).



seem to center precisely on the question of Others, and any political efficacy Sander's work provides will emanate from here. It is here as well that, for practically the first time, the darker reality revealed by Sander's photography becomes visible, even readable. Degeneration The institutionalizationoffear-just so have contemporary historians labeled the growth of philosophies of degeneration in the late nineteenth century.39 Sander's cycle of civilization, the portrait he depicts of society decaying as a necessaryresultof its advancement, its departure from "nature," fully inherits the that were to be deployed scope of such "decadent" philosophies-philosophies to such tragic ends in Hitler's "Final Solution." Sander's photography performs a phenomenon of double recurrence: just as degeneration drew much of its philosophical strength in the nineteenth century from the prevalence of Hegelian dialectical thinking (in that degeneration was thought to necessarily accompany progress, its antithesis), photography itself, as another invention of the nineteenth century, came to occupy such a double function. Photography, a radical break from former modes of representation with its involvement in mechanical image generation (not mimesis in any traditional sense), became associated above all with utopian notions of artistic progress and cultural renewal, an association especially true for Weimar attitudes toward photography. At the same time, photography-mechanistic, duplicative-essentially threatened the spiritual, idealist, and bourgeois conceptions of "art,"giving rise to a great deal of cultural pessimism regarding the future of art and the future effects of photography on people in society. The cycle of Citizens concretely realizes this (pseudo)dialectic, imbricating the degenerative with the generative, the with the utopic. dystopic It is not a coincidence that 1911 was both the year that Spengler conceived of Declineof the West well as the year that Sander began work on Citizens, as just as it is not a coincidence that both works came to fruition and popularity after the First World War. Benjamin correctly noted that the overarching origin of the philosophies of the German right was in nineteenth-century dicadenceand that such ideas would eventually result in an "uninhibited translation of the principles of l'artpour l'art to war itself."40He further understood that the Weimar attraction to related ideas of degenerescence one basic historical explanation-the German had defeat in the First World War: Attempts to come to terms with the war show a clear pattern. These
39. I take the phrase from Sander Gilman and Edwin Chamberlin's introduction to Degeneration: TheDark Side of Progress (New York:Columbia University Press, 1985), p. xiv. 40. edited by Benjamin, "Theories of German Fascism: On the Collection of Essays Warand Warrior, 17 ErnstJiinger," New GermanCritique (Spring 1979), pp. 121-22.

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attempts began with an effort to pervert the German defeat into an inner victory by means of confessions of guilt which were hysterically elevated to the universally human. This political position, which supplied the manifestos of the course of the decline of the West, faithfully reflected the German "revolution" made by the Expressionist avant-garde.... JUinger and others of the German Right] complied with the desires of the bourgeoisie, which longed for the decline of the West, the way a schoolboy longs for an inkblot in place of his wrong answer. They spread decline, preached decline wherever they went. Not even for a moment were they capable of holding up to view-instead of doggedly holding onto-what had been lost. They were alwaysthe first and the bitterest to oppose coming to one's senses.41 What had been lost? The war surely, but what other losses did the Weimar thinkers criticized by Benjamin fully disavow? The logic of their thinking, based as it was on decadent ideals, probably would have claimed that what had been lost were such troublesome concepts as the "natural," the "connected," the "pure." Etymologically, the word degeneration itself comes from a Latin root meaning to "fall from the genus or stock"-to be engaged, therefore, with debasement, with the ignoble. The legacy of World War I for Weimar Germany certainly forced such an engagement on the part of German intellectuals, artists, and photographers like Sander: the physical reality of the war's loss included more than a half million disabled soldiers, more than one million war orphans, 350,000 children depending on public assistance, and millions of people homeless and jobless due to the destruction of the country's infrastructure.42 Sander positioned this legacy among the last two groups in his typology, "The Metropolis" and "The Last People"-the part of his work that most clearly embodied ideas of degeneration and the cycle of decay. The question of how Sander's Citizensdeals with this legacy of Germany's loss of the war may shed light both on the larger losses disavowed by the German right and the specific losses disavowed by Sander. For one, these portraits are not the simple "underside" of Sander's is typological project: their challenge to the conceptual basis of Citizens much more radical than that. True to Doblin's (and Benjamin's) opinion that Sander's work functioned as what could be called a "comparative photography," many of the images in the last two groupings of Sander's typology recall earlier photographs in the social structure depicted within Citizens.I would like to turn now to just two of these "reduplicative chains," as I call them, because the logic they enact involves comparisons that are striking not for the differences and distinctions they allow to be made between different "types" in Sander's hierarchy, but for something far more subversive. Indeed, working against the narrative binding of Sander's cycle of
41. 42. Ibid., p. 123. See Keller, Citizens,p. 49, for these and other statistics on the legacy of the First World War.




DisabledMan. 1926.

decay, these repetitive sequences work instead to emphasize the breakdown of the social hierarchy; they result in comparisons that are disturbing inasmuch as they call forth a serial logic of duplication, of similarity-and of what Freudian psychology would call "uncanny strangeness." The first chain I would like to highlight is short, but crucial: it begins with the photograph Widowerwith His Sons, an image that occurs relatively early in Sander's planned hierarchy. The photograph itself poignantly speaks of loss: it falls in the grouping Sander would have dedicated to women, and thus seems to comment on the plight of the bourgeois family that has lost its "anchor of domestic stability," the wife and mother. If anything acts semiologically within this photograph as what Barthes called the photographic punctum-the point of irrational interest, the mad, piercing eruption within the image-for me it is bad posture:the young slouching boy attests to the loss of stability in this family, but also, within Sander's framework, he presumably attests to the degeneration

Photography betweenNarrativity and Stasis


Widower with Sons. Circa1906-7.

The Painter Gottfried Brockmann. 1924.

Sander assumed to occur from generation to generation within society.43 Gripped also by his shaved head, his dejected by this young boy's posture, of all things-but can find this motif repeatedly elsewhere in the typology, exactly as expression-I it appears here. The Painter Gottfried Brockmann, for example, reiterates all these attributes of the young boy. Brockmann's photograph, however, comes much later in Sander's arrangement, among other progressive, bohemian artists (Brockmann was a friend of Sander's who lived with the photographer and his family for a time, and he appears in other photographs Sander entitled simply "Bohemians"). Among the denizens of the last groupings of the typology, however, one image figures prominently in this connection: the UnemployedMan, an important image
43. Keller chose this photograph, with its contrast between the sturdy, "self-confident, voluminous" bourgeois father and his slouching, "slight, awkward"son, to exemplify how Sander may have intended viewers of his photography to read the decline of society. See ibid., p. 38.

Unemployed Man. 1928.



from the typology in that it concluded the shorter, summary selection of photographs Sander chose for Antlitz der Zeit. Here the image of the slouching man occurs yet again, providing recourse not to thoughts of a differentiated class structure but to a strange human seriality. In the most obvious of ways, Sander's social typology was an attempt to map a complex web of social sites, an attempt to firmly articulate a narrative of social placement.In a recent text, Sekula has speculated that Sander's photography is precisely a project of social "emplacement," a project that depends on the constitutive logic and the function of photographic portraiture itself.44 Considered on its own, this last photograph of the unemployed man, potentially homeless and depicted in the streets of the modern metropolis, provides the perfect conclusion to Sander's narrative of the decay of social rootedness and fixed placement. On a surface level, the photograph seems by negative example to shore up the rootedness of the previous social groupings, embodying a fundamental Unheimlichkeit-a literal homelessness-peculiar to the condition of modern social life. Considered relationally with other sections of the typology, however, the repetitions concluded by this last photograph begin to disrupt the surety and the distinctness of such a narrative, with this last photograph definitively exceeding its fixed place in the project's arrangement.45 It is this excess that begins, within Sander's typology, to figure a deeper uncanniness beyond the logic of its degeneration narrative, one resting on a complex interplay between historical reality and subjective processes of fantasy. This sense of spatial and its concomitant social displacement-of repetitions leveling the distinctions between one site of the typology and the next-indeed points to one of the primary attributes of the uncanny as defined by Freud. Involved in the loss of a unitary sense of (social) space, producing a multiplication of unanchorable sites, Freud connected the uncanny to an anxious "intellectual uncertainty,"where "the uncanny would always,as it were, be something one does not know one's way about in. The better oriented in his environment a person is, the less readily will he get the impression of something uncanny in regard to the objects and events in it."46
44. The term comes from Foucault: "The paradox of Sander's project centered on his attempt to force the fluidity and disruption of Weimar modernity into a formal structure derived from medieval systems of social description. (If we were to substitute Foucault's spatial categories for Bloch's temporal categories, we would say that Sander was trying to map an order of 'relations between sites' into one of 'emplacement.' And are not portraits in their very origins fantasies of emplacement?)" (Sekula, Fish Story[Dfisseldorf: Richter Verlag, 1995], p. 131). 45. Sekula attaches similar effects to another late portrait in the typology, that of a homeless sailor: "More than any other of Sander's subjects in Antlitz der Zeit,the sailor departed-physically and temperamentally-from the originary site of Heimat, or home-place, that provided the material and metaphysical ground for Sander's taxonomic system. This is evident in the sailor's stance, which departs from the solemnity and rootedness of all the rest" (ibid., p. 132). 46. Works Sigmund Freud, "The 'Uncanny"' (1919), in TheStandardEditionof the Complete Psychological of Sigmund Freud,vol. 17 (London: Hogarth, 1955), p. 221. The best elaboration of the relationships between modernity, the Uncanny, and social space is Anthony Vidler's The ArchitecturalUncanny (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992).

Farm Children. Circa1927-28.

In this regard, the second chain that I want to highlight begins with what for Sander is a curious photograph: as Ulrich Keller has pointed out, the photograph Farm Children a manipulated image. Seemingly side-by-side in two doorways, the is two children are actually standing in the samedoorway. Sander has montaged two separate negatives, developing two different photographs as a single, unitary print. This effect, against Sander's intentions certainly, speaks again of a serial logic, of an interchangeability between the two children who occupy, uncannily, the same space. The photograph also points to a method of reading what, for Sander, was a crucial motif of the typology: the doubleportrait, the portrait of brothers, sisters, friends, and married couples. Paradigmatic in this regard is the photograph Farm Girls, an image of two girls who wear exactly the same outfit, almost to the detail. The uncanny doubling enacted by this photograph has garnered it many art-historical comparisons with Diane Arbus's famous image of young identical twins.47It, however, is only one of a striking series of such photo47. My observations here and throughout the rest of this essay would be unthinkable without Krauss'spioneering work on photography's indexicality and the effects of its processes of doubling. See, for example, any of her numerous accounts of Surrealist photography, especially "The Photographic Conditions of Surrealism,"in The Originalityof the Avant-Garde. For an interesting reevaluation of the function of the double in Arbus's photography, see Carol Armstrong, "Biology, Destiny, Photography: Difference According to Diane Arbus," October (Fall 1993). In relation to the critical reception of 66 Sander's work (which did not truly begin until the mid-1970s), the first connection between Sander, Arbus, and the uncanny was made in an early article by Max Kozloff, "The Uncanny Portrait: Sander, Arbus, Samaras,"Artforum (June 1973), pp. 58-66.



Farm Girls. Circa1928.

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graphs within the typology. Consider the following selection (there could, again,
be many others): Sisters, Farm Children, the proletarian Dockworkers, Vagrants, Gypsies, Usherettes,Midgets, and the Blind Children. Moving through all levels of the

typology to its "descending," degenerate end, these portraits-already double in and of themselves-find themselves redoubled, opened to a potentially endless chain of similarities, of immobilizing repetitions that wreak havoc with any neat and simple degeneration narrative contained within Sander's archive. Of course, a more fundamental doubling exists in all of these examples: the doubling that precisely constitutes the photographic process itself. In Sander's work, this doubling works in league with the spatial disorientation just discussed, increasing the unsettling force embodied in these images. Of the many phenomena that Freud believed occasioned uncanniness, none were as central as the experience of doubling and the encounter with the inanimate (and its confusion with the animate). The photographic, at its most basic level, involves both: "What makes the first photographs so incomparable," Walter Benjamin once wrote, "is perhaps this: that they represent the first image of the encounter of machine and human being."48 This primary uncanniness that belongs to the photographic as such is only compounded in Sander's project. Beyond his intentions, a space has opened up in this photography; a crucial gap has been produced. Producing a rending split that (un)settles between narrativity and stasis, Sander's photography begins to generate, on its own as it were and beyond Sander's agency, a series of crucial questions. Attempting to read a clear narrative of social degeneration in these images, one is persistently frustrated by the reduplications and static disruptions just detailed, disruptions that themselves echo the static functioning of the photographic medium. But on another level, these static disruptions are only half the story: while frustrating Sander's intended narrative, other narrative tendencies exist within Sander's photography; other circulations arise. They arise, in part, from the energies released by the static reduplications just detailed-from their philosophical ramifications-but they arise, as well, from the historical losses that Sander and many other German intellectuals refused to acknowledge. The degenerate philosophies popular in Germany during Weimar, and active in Sander's photography, provide a key to these losses, inasmuch as degeneration "provided a way of organizing impressions and of projecting desires, of formulating experience and of expressing hopes and fears, of reconciling the logics of the physical with those of the psychical worlds."49Degeneration, in fact, turned out to be what Sander Gilman has called a "mirage," a preeminently psychic The structural, ahistorical repetitions (and racist) construction of "inner fear."50
48. Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften5, p. 832 (Y4a, 3). Cited in Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989), pp. 133-34. 49. Chamberlin and Gilman, Degeneration, xii. Emphasis mine. p. 50. See Gilman, "Sexology, Psychoanalysis and Degeneration: From a Theory of Race to a Race to Theory," where he states: "The explanation of the dark center of human history, like the mirage of degeneracy, turns out to be an inner fear of that hidden within us and projected onto the world" (ibid.,



performed within Citizenshave a historical basis; the psychic functioning of the uncanny does have historical parameters. In Sander's case, these parameters are directly determined by the uncanny's relationship to loss-of presence, of autonomy, of the authentic experience and the original phenomenon-which we can perhaps begin to understand through photography's dialectical position between generation and degeneration, duplicative image generation and the decay of mimetic representational practices. Perhaps more precisely, while the uncanny as a phenomenon has historical causes, the uncanny itself begins to articulate this history, this articulation being part and parcel of what the uncanny as a force actually is. It must be remembered that, historically, photography has raised the societal and psychic problem of the uncanny like no other mode of other representational strategy is as inherently involved in representation-no (potentially endless) doubling, in the production of a duplicate trace that is to an extent as real as the object represented. In Sander's photography, however, this closeness of the real to its representation becomes a folding in of the two upon each other, exacerbated through the choice of Sander's own photographic language. By this, I mean to raise the issue of the manner in which photographic portraiture functions for Sander. Sander's use of the portrait may indeed be the key to the issues just raised, for as a genre the portrait has its own historicity and its own integral connection to certain historical forces. Turning to these considerations, the gap produced by Sander's work may begin to make more sense; Sander's photography and its serial repetitions foreground psychic projections of what is in actuality a historical crisisof language.

"There were not alwaysnovels in the past," wrote Walter Benjamin, and there will not always have to be; not always tragedies, not always great epics; not always were the forms of commentary, translation, indeed, even so-called plagiarism, playthings in the margins of literature.... All this to accustom you to the thought that we are in the

midst of a mighty recasting of literary forms, a melting down in which many of the opposites in which we used to think may lose their force.51 Benjamin believed that this great recasting of forms in the early twentieth century included not just literature, but all the arts. This brings us to the problem which Sander's entire photographic practice engages, that of the category of the portrait itself. Historically, photography posed a great challenge to the portrait category, especially among painters. Was it still possible to paint a portrait in the age of
p. 89). For more on such projections and what Gilman calls the "deep structure" of stereotypes, see his and Difference Pathology: Stereotypes Sexuality,Race, and Madness(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985). of 51. Benjamin, "The Author as Producer," in Reflections (New York:Schocken Books, 1978), p. 224.

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photographic reproduction? Obviously, among artists who repeatedly disavow the historical results of material changes, portrait painting was still viable. For the not just in avant-garde, however, this has continually been a valid question-valid relation to painting, but (with an acknowledgment of changing social conditions) valid in general. Is the category of the traditional portrait viable at all in the twentieth century? There is a certain irony at work in Sander's view of photographic history, in his analysis of the changes that photographic forms themselves have gone through: after attributing an early vitality to (portrait) photography in the nineteenth century, Sander saw the pictorialist period preceding the 1920s as one of irredeemable kitsch, as a period of absolute decline. For Sander, photography and the photographic portrait had experienced a "rebirth" during Weimar; he saw this great rebirth as a "purification process," not necessarily involving irrevocable material changes, but simply "truth to form."52 With the adoption of photography by the modernist avant-garde, however, the viability of the portrait category became a fixed topic of debate. From the Cologne Progressives to the Soviet avant-garde, positions on portraiture were taken and argued across a wide range of ideological perspectives.53 However, the "problematic of the portrait" is more complicated than even the historical avantgarde seemed to realize.54 Furthering positions taken during earlier debates, it is only in recent decades that artists and critics have become aware of the full extent of the portrait's intrinsic material basis, its historical function, and its overwhelming instrumentalization during the course of the nineteenth century. Portrait photography was inextricably linked to the rise of bourgeois and petit-bourgeois subjectivity. As these classes rose in power during the nineteenth century, photography provided the increasingly democratic, mass representations that the nature of their newly acquired social status demanded.55 Polemically and repeatedly, Sekula has extended our insights into the institutional nature of this and bourgeois subjectivity: for one, photography link between photography "did not simply inherit and 'democratize' the honorific functions of bourgeois portraiture [in painting]. Photography served to introduce the Panopticon principle into daily life. Every portrait implicitly took its place within a social and

Sander's five lectures for German radio, The Nature and Growthof Photography, 52. contain his views on this history. See Halley, "August Sander,"p. 663. 53. Unfortunately, the full parameters of the avant-garde's debate over photographic portraiture cannot be articulated within the context of this essay; for the most advanced critique of traditional portraiture within the Soviet context, see Alexander Rodchenko's essay "Protiv summirovannogo portreta za momentalnyi snimok," Novyi lef4 (1928), translated as "Against the Synthetic Portrait, for the Snapshot," in Photography theModernEra:European in Documents and CriticalWritings, Christopher ed. Phillips (New York:Metropolitan Museum of Art/Aperture, 1989). 54. The "problematic of the portrait" comes from the title of the most polemical of the statements made by the Cologne Progressives on portraiture. See the anonymously authored "ZurProblematik des Portrats,"A bis Z28 (November 1932), p. 110. 55. For more on the links between the rise of photography and the rise of social classes, see Gisele and Freund, Photography Society(Boston: David Godine, 1980).



moral hierarchy."56 Hierarchical thinking, with its basic ties to bourgeois values, intrinsically belongs to portrait photography. In the nineteenth century, the traditional function was the ceremonial presentation of the bourgeois portrait's self. While the mass reproducibility of the photograph, its commercial ability to circulate, subverted the privilege of such presentation, its hierarchical functions reconstructed this privilege, as Sekula has again argued, in a hierarchy of taste.57 This was achieved through conventions of pictorial selection and display, through actual function and social value. The results of such a reorganization were intimately connected to the material realities of bourgeois social life, this being one of the primary techniques that fulfilled the institutional needs of this class to reify into concrete images its own power over other, dispossessed classes. In Sekula's words, the first consequence of this is that to the extent that bourgeois society depends on the systematic defense of property relations, to the extent that the legal basis of the self lies in property rights, every proper portrait of a "man of genius" made by a "man of genius" has its counterpart in a mug shot. Both attempts are motivated by an uneasy belief in the category of the individual.58 Thus, in concretely realizing (at the same time as constructing) bourgeois subjectivity, the portrait photograph also came to realize its dialectically necessary other function: "photography came to establish and delimit the terrain of the Other, to define both the generalized look-the the contingent instance of typology-and deviance and social pathology."59 Sander's work-sadly, the historical and material uncritically-replicates conditions of the conventions of the portrait. Ironically, this typology of degeneration disavows what Hal Foster has called the "corrosive effects of time."60 The crude solely in the logic of this corrosion, and my espousal of it, is crude-but Brechtian sense, in that thoughts and acts are only useful inasmuch as they are true to the material conditions of social life and (such is the nature of modern, capitalist intellectual life) allow work to be done. In the 1920s, in Germany and most of the Western, industrial world, the category of the portrait was a category in crisis. The historical, institutional link between the category of the portrait and the category of the individual facilitated this crisis, corresponding as it did to a historical moment during which the collectivization of social life was threatening the integrity of the concept of individuality and most other tenets of bourgeois existence. In the visual arts, mass reproduction
56. Sekula, "Photography Between Labor and Capital," p. 222. 57. See Sekula, "The Body and the Archive,"p. 345. 58. Sekula, "The Traffic in Photographs," p. 79. Sekula posits other dialectical links made by bourgeois photography: those between the romantic landscape and the aerial view of an enemy's terrain, and eroticized views of the body with the views of medical anatomy. 59. Sekula, "The Body and the Archive," p. 345. 60. Foster, "(Post)Modern Polemics," in Recodings(Seattle: Bay Press, 1985), p. 124.

Photography betweenNarrativity and Stasis


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Usherettes. 1926.



techniques were irrevocably altering the conditions of artistic experience. "The instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production," wrote Benjamin, "the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice-politics."61 Although he did not recognize this in Sander's work, Benjamin was fully aware of the dangers that the face, especially the photographic portrait, posed to the politicization of art necessitated by such material crises. Aura was explicitly linked to portraiture for Benjamin, and in photography, "cult value does not give way without resistance. It retires into an ultimate retrenchment: the human countenance."62 For astute photographic historians like Sekula, these institutional linkages have provided the fodder for their critique of Sander's practice, a critique with which I am obviously in agreement-but not complete agreement. I have asserted that Sander's treatment of Others in his last two groupings of photographs does not simply represent an underside to the total portrait project. This may have been Sander's intention, but that ultimately is not my concern. This is not how these photographs function, for if they did, that would, again, simply replicate the pseudodialectic of degeneration, a dialectic that I believe Sander's project, because of its historical position,problematizes. The articulation of this problem cannot only take the form of a "crude" material critique, as important and essential as this mode of analysis is for the determination of historical forces. What we need is a photographic criticism that does not simply expose the institutional constructs that so constrain and limit the historical subject (and the medium of photography), but one that instead furthers the implications of such a critique and traces the intricate waysin which a subject (and a photograph) maneuvers within this historical field. We need a photographic criticism that is a critique of institutions and a theory of the subject-not the authorial subject, of course, nor the intending subject, but rather the subject in and of photography. Indeed, we need a criticism that imbricates the institutional with the psychological (inasmuch as these two discourses always already constitute each other), and thus comes to articulate the position of the photograph in a historical and social field of forces-forces and drives (narrative and static, symbolic and asymbolic) that are larger than any single subject but are formative of subjectivity (and subjection) in general.63
61. Benjamin, "The Work of Art,"p. 224. 62. Ibid., p. 225. 63. Perhaps this task could be concretely attempted through a collision of present materialist practices in photographic criticism with the thoughts on historical materialism and psychoanalysis presented by Julia Kristeva in Revolution in Poetic Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984). How photographic criticism would adapt to its needs what Kristeva calls the "chora" function and the formative interplay between what she calls the "semiotic" (le semiotique) and the "symbolic"is something that I can only deal with indirectly in the limited space that follows. For one attempt that has been made to bring some of Kristeva's insights to bear on photographic analysis, see Diana Fuss, "Fashion and the Homospectatorial Look," CriticalInquiry 18 (Summer 1992), pp. 713-37. This essay, however, deals mainly with fashion photography-the instrumentalized image par excellence-not with aesthetic practice. I thank Reginald Woolery for bringing its argument to my attention.

Photography betweenNarrativity and Stasis


In this vein, I would like to (re) turn in conclusion to the notion of betrayalhere indeed is a strange and troublesome politics. The critical project professed by Sander is, in the opinion of critics like Sekula, compromised by his reliance on the category of the portrait. This is certainly true. His work replicates the form and function that bourgeois portrait photography necessitated. But how is even this replication, at least partially, betrayed the decay of the portrait category in by general at the historical moment of Sander's work on the typology? its Writing, Leo Bersani has asserted, becomes literature when it erodes own statements, thereby blocking definitive interpretation. The manner in which this is achieved, for Bersani at least, is best exemplified by Freud's theoretical writings, which "provide us with both an interpretive discourse on these eroding forces, and an exemplification, within that very discourse, of the process of erosion."64 In what ways does this statement apply to a photography that potentially becomes critical? Does a photographic practice that cannot coherently uphold its own language and bind its own statements offer the possibility of a political reappropriation? If anything, this possibility is the one offered up by Sander's practice. The dialectical result of the decay of the portrait category on Sander's practice, the result of its institutionally necessitated assault on his intentions from the outside, is a parallel assault on his photographic language from within. The crisis embodied in the serial repetitions of the uncanny at work in Sander's typology has already pointed us to the group of portraits in the last portfolios of Citizens. These portraits, inasmuch as they embody the confrontation with the Other necessitated and constructed by bourgeois portraiture, point despite themselves to further disruptions of Sander's photographic language. The peculiarly uncanny effects of Sander's photographic work, and the working of these last portraits, may have been what Doblin had in mind when he asserted in the introduction of Antlitz der Zeitthat when viewing Sander's photographs we become "strangers to ourselves."65 A curious evaluation: this is exactly the title to Julia Kristeva's recent attempt to come to terms with the historicity of the uncanny and both its ethical and political effects.66 To get from the uncanny to the ethical, Kristeva turns to points in Freud's text that center not solely on the effects of doubling and splitting central to the activity of the uncanny, but also to the role such uncanniness plays in the psychic confounding of boundaries between subject and object, between self and other. Considering the confrontation posed by Sander's photography, I want to turn now to one specific moment in Freud's essay, a moment in his description of the uncanny that not only concretizes this reading by Kristeva but also relates both directly and indirectly to the function of portraiture itself.
64. Bersani means that the "truth" of Freudian theory lies in just those moments where Freud's theory collapses in on itself and fails to make sense, thus attesting to the violently irrational aspects of the unconscious at work within Freud's text itself. See TheFreudianBody,p. 12. 65. Doblin, "About Faces," p. 57. 66. See Kristeva, Strangers Ourselves, to trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York:Columbia University Press, 1991).

Midgets. Circa1906.

Commenting in a remarkable passage on the primary causes and effects of the doubling inherent to uncanniness, Freud cites Otto Rank's study of the notion of the double, and its connection with "reflections in mirrors, with shadows, with guardian spirits, with the belief in the soul and the fear of death." Freud's primary interest, however, is in an "archaeology" of the "evolution" of this idea. Following and expanding upon Rank, Freud states: The "double" was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego, an "energetic denial of the power of death," as Rank says; and probably the "immortal" soul was the first "double" of the body. This invention of doubling as a preservation against extinction has its counterpart in the language of dreams, which is fond of representing castration by a doubling or a multiplication of a genital symbol. The same desire led the Ancient Egyptians to develop the art of making images of the dead in lasting materials. Such ideas, however, have sprung from the soil of unbounded self-love, from the primary narcissism which dominates the mind of the child and of primitive man. But when this stage has been surmounted, the "double" reverses its aspect. From having been an assurance of immortality, he becomes the uncanny harbinger of death.67
67. Freud, "The 'Uncanny,"' p. 235.

Photography betweenNarrativity and Stasis


Far from being left behind in a nascent stage of human or historical development, Freud speculated that in the transformed topography of the fully developed subject's psyche, a now inherent, usually tamed, but potentially troublesome "doubleness" had been retained: The idea of the "double" does not necessarily disappear with the passing of primary narcissism, for it can receive fresh meaning from the later stages of the ego's development. A special agency is slowly formed there, which is able to stand over against the rest of the ego, which has the function of observing and criticizing the self and of exercising a censorship within the mind, and which we become aware of as our
"conscience." . .. The fact that an agency of this kind exists, which is

able to treat the rest of the ego like an object-the fact, that is, that man is capable of self-observation-renders it possible to invest the old idea of a "double" with a new meaning and to ascribe a number of things to it-above all, those things which seem to self-criticism to belong to the old surmounted narcissism of earliest times.68 With this passage, Freud has set up the dynamic that will essentially encompass all the phenomena that have been associated with feelings of the uncanny, and with this dynamic in place he drives his essay to its conclusion. As is well known, Freud ultimately figured the uncanny as a feeling or event triggered by the return of a familiar thing made strange by repression. Such a return, in Freud's view, signaled one of two possible scenarios: either the subject's infantile fantasies (of castration, say, or of returning to the womb) had been reactivated by an external impression, or historically "primitive" beliefs (Freud uses the example of animistic beliefs in the omnipotence of one's thoughts) that had long ago been abandoned seemed to be confirmed in the face of any possible rationalization. In the present context, Freud's speculations on the uncanniness of the double become compelling in relation to the historical functions attributable to portraiture, and photographic portraiture more specifically. Considering photographic portraiture's instrumental connection to the construction of bourgeois subjectivity, without being too reductive, we can perhaps utilize Freud's thoughts here to be more specific about the process involved in such construction; we can also revise some of our thoughts on the historical function of photographic portraiture in terms of its subject, the subject it both instantiates and requires. By Freud's logic, the photographic portrait created as a memorializing double of the bourgeois subject should be considered a compensatory operation, even at its origin: the creation of a double serves the purpose of protecting the ego, of shoring up the subject against its dissolution. However, such a compensatory function is paradoxical at best, for such attempts arise from a nexus of quasianimist, mythical beliefs; at a later point in (the subject's) history, when such
68. Ibid.



it is confronted as an uncanny sign of the mimetic doubling is confronted, dissolution of the subject, of its imminent destruction, not its preservation. From commentators on the photographic have noted just this, the the beginning, death that is signaled, even preserved, there, and in the genre of photographic portraiture the inscription of such photographic "death" joins forces with the uncanniness produced by the indexical double. of portraiture, and its Such speculations on the inherent uncanniness paradoxical position between the articulation and the dissolution of the bourgeois subject, intersect with Sander's operations on many levels. Sander's typological ambition must be considered as primarily antimythological; it was part and parcel of a wide range of rationalist objectives common to the Weimar intellectual landscape. The paradox of this ambition, however, is that it rests upon a conflicted attempt to redeem the viability of portraiture, a primarily mythical language that had been systematically dismantled since the modernist innovations of the first decade of the twentieth century. In Sander's case, this mythological language is conflated with a rhetoric of empiricist, scientistic observation, and this conflation occurs precisely through the agency of the photographic. What Sander's project requires, then, is a repression of the mythical aspects of his chosen language, a repression that at the most complex moments of the typology can only fail, itself. The primary betrayed by the demythifying aspects of the photographic uncanniness of photographic portraiture is thus redoubled in this project; outmoded in its claims to historical validity, the obsessive attempt at a reinstitution of the portrait performed by Sander's project returns the portrait as a genre riven by the uncanny. In saying this, I am not arguing that the uncanny thing that is returning in Sander's typology is the portrait as a visual language; indeed, although dismantled by the avant-garde, the portrait had never disappeared-it had only been instrumentalized as such. Instead, I am arguing for its disruption as a coherent, unified language. Made strange through repression, what returns in Sander's portraiture are several of the constitutive repressions enacted by modernism and the forces of modernity itself, and it is part of the historical value of the uncanniness of Sander's project to reveal what these are. Primary among these repressions are notions of the centered (humanist) self, and the bourgeois concept of individuality; outmoded by emerging structuralist models and political models of socialism (and fascism) alike, theoretical/aesthetic such conceptions of the subject retained a disruptive power to return in the face of their historical dissolution. It should be remembered that their dismantling was not monolithic, nor one-sided: superseded in a gesture of liberation by the aesthetic and philosophical avant-garde, this subject was simultaneously being dissolved for the purposes of domination in the realm of mass-cultural developments as well.69 In the realm of aesthetic production, however, one of the primary
69. This insight has been important to my revision of this essay for publication, and I take it from Buchloh; see his "Residual Resemblance," p. 55.

Photography betweenNarrativity and Stasis


repressions of visual modernism was the ability to engage narrativity; here, in Sander's project, this function, too, returns, and it returns with uncanny effects. In this, we see one of the more general characteristics of the antimodernist gesture: usually ideologically retrograde on the surface, such aesthetic moves often betray their own ideology. In attempting to reinstitute the historically obsolete, not only are these strategies disrupted by the uncanniness of their position, but they manage to alter the progressive modernist imagination as well with dialectical and historical afterimages of this modernism's necessary exclusions. In Sander's case, this returns us to the confrontation his typology poses between the centered, bourgeois self and its social, ethnic, and historical Other(s). Here, Sander's project distinguishes itself from the more overtly racist antimodernist representations of Weimar proto-Nazisms. Sander's project is primarily inclusive in its social scope, extending representation across the spectrum of German society, but its paradox is that it extends this representation only in terms of the exclusive (and excluding), class-determined category of the portrait itself. This confrontation precipitates a fundamental bifurcation, a splitting played out among the effects dictated by the uncanniness these representations display. In the passage from the uncanny cited above, Freud connected the uncanny to an involution of self and Other through the development of a "special agency," an agency that would create an inversion of exterior relationships by treating the "rest of the ego like an object." However, when speaking of the uncanny as defined by Freud, as a force with the power to create certain effects, we must speak of the development of an "agency" in the larger sense that this term designates in English. Relating to the properties of language itself, it is well known that Freud's interest in the uncanny was in large part linguistic,and one of the main tasks of the first section of his essay is to display how the German word for the uncanny-Unheimlich-is already contained in its linguistic opposite, heimlich.This latter word, meaning "friendly"or "comfortable,"also connotes a secondary meaning of "concealed, kept out of sight, behind someone's back," before the addition of any differentiating prefix. In this, Freud saw in the linguistic archaeology of the uncanny a motive its propensity for the word to become other; leveling distinctions and any proper sense of anchored place, the uncanny posed a mobile agency that could effect significant changes upon subjective or other topographies. Above all, the effect of this agency was to render the uncanny object or event ambiguous, and its subject anxious. This transformed, unanchored state would itself precipitate attempts at resolution; as Freud put it in a passage that I have already cited, the splitting of the self "renders it possible to invest the old idea of a 'double' with a new meaning," which one could "ascribe a number of things."70 to
70. Emphasis mine. The iterative agency operating in such Freudian concepts has been explored in the recent work of Homi Bhabha; I am particularly indebted here to his reflections on the agency and temporality of the Freudian concept of anxiety in a talk given at the Whitney Independent Study Program, May 1995.



In Sander's hands, this motive force emanating from deep within the contradictions of his photographic language gives rise to an anxious mobility of meaning, and a fundamental undermining of the certainties of his project; beyond the other disruptions contained in this work, a narrativizing force arises precisely in contradiction to Sander's intended narrative of social decay. Historically compromised and psychically split, the results of these developments on Sander's project are several; the intersection of these forces and the breakdown of Sander's photographic language give rise to the fundamental ambivalence inherent in his portraits. Indeed, ambivalence-in every sense of the word-perfectly describes Sander's historical position as a Neue Sachlichkeit photographer. His work attests not to the decay of society, but rather to the decay of the category of the portrait, to its language, at least, and possibly to the decay of a class. Attempting to repress what Barthes has quite accurately termed the "profound madness" of photography, Sander's work is betrayed by the uncanny, static repetitions that precisely belong to the photographic medium itself. Depicting a narrative of social decay, Sander's work disavows the realities of the historical changes in which German society was then involved, and the logic of this disavowal indeed results in that most characteristic of Neue Sachlichkeit practices, fetishization. This fetishization encompasses many things: that of the human subject, of course, but perhaps more tellingly, that of the signified. Rushing to his "socially critical" message, Sander disavows the material forces that had historically compromised his chosen signifier, the portrait itself. Along with the disruptive, static repetitions his photography then enacts, it also gives rise despite itself to a certain circulation. This narrative circulation is not, as Sander intended, the circle of "unmediated truth," nor even that of the cycle of social decay, but rather the circulation of language itself, which for all his attempts his chosen language cannot control. Dialectically embodied in his photography, there exists the result of the crisis of Sander's photographic ambivalence, the price he must pay for enacting the logic of the between. The political potential of his photography thus comes only from emptying out his intentions, and from seeing in his work something that he never actually achieved-but which exists behind his disavowals-and through the effects of the history to which his work inevitably attests. A reduced politics: fully exceeding his intentions on the level of the project's ability to be read, Sander's ambivalence points the way to the essential narrative element of the anarchic Text that achieves, in Barthes's words, "if not the transparency of social relations, that at least of language relations: the Text is that space where no language has a hold over The any other, where languages circulate (keeping the circular sense of the term)."71 riddled with category of the portrait returns to us, from this circulation in Citizens, also informs us of the directions that decay. However, with this realization, Citizens future photographic developments may take.
71. ed. Barthes, "From Work to Text," in Art afterModernism: RethinkingRepresentation, Brian Wallis (Boston: David Godine, 1984), p. 174.

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"To worry or to smile," Kristeva writes, "such is the choice when we are assailed by the strange; our decision depends on how familiar we are with our own ghosts."72 Photography-producer of ghosts, machine of the uncanny-is itself haunted by many "chattering ghosts" (Sekula's phrase), a complex situation that this essay has attempted to explore. In our photographic criticism and our contemporary photographic practice, we must realize the formative position photography has occupied within the discourses that have shaped our modernity, and its specific intersections with the two great epistemological breaks of the modern era, historical materialism and psychoanalysis, the critique of institutions and the constitution of the subject. With August Sander's disavowal of photography's place in such crucial formations, we have watched the melancholic incompleteness of his Citizenstransform itself, before our eyes, into tragedy. Missed opportunities and disavowal, one could say, were the greater and larger tragedy of the Weimar Republic itself. At the end of the introductory essay for Citizens,Keller concludes that with Sander's photography we are invited to take up an inheritance. As far as photographic history is concerned, however, this legacy has already been taken up, in at least two directions. Inasmuch as photographers have realized the unconscious and social crisis posed by Sander's photographic portraiture and typological practice, they may manage to achieve a truly political function for photographyto an extent, this legacy has been realized by Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Thomas Struth, among others. However, to the extent that photographers remain blind to the obsolete historical aspects of Sander's project, they end up repeating and replaying the historical crisis embodied there-not as tragedy, to quote from Marx, but as farce. This, if anything, has been the photographic contribution of such esteemed portrait photographers as Arbus (at her worst) and Richard Avedon (at his best). This then, is the historical situation that has forced the necessity of conceiving photographic meaning between narrativity and stasis: beyond such dangerous ideas as "truth to form" and the reinstitution of oppressive traditions, we must be aware of the constitutive narrative drives and the replicative, demythifying stoppages that photography can maintain. "Ein Ubergangund ein Nietzsche said: an overgoing and an undergoing, a transition and a Untergang," decline. This is the dialectic whose historical force we must listen to and bring out in our contemporary photography, much to the chagrin of those reactionary forces that would keep photography and the photographic subject in their place.


Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, p. 191.