influential images

August Sander (1919) Widower and sons, Cologne. Photograph

Even without reading the title of this photograph we are aware of the events indicated by the mournful expressions on this familie’s faces. The posture of the smallest child is completely forlorn and he stares at us with a melancholy gaze. His shoulders are slumped and appear to sustain a burdensome weight. The older boy is slightly less apparent in his sorrow but clearly displays an aura of tragedy. The family are in their home surroundings it seems, there is carpet which indicated a certain amount of wealth, as does the father’s garments. His well tailored suit, fob watch and tie are evidence that this family is from the middle classes, however the children appear less prosperous in their fortunes. Their shaven heads are possible a consequence of head lice or perhaps the father being widowed finds shaven heads more practical. There is a slight show of affection here with the fathers hand holding the elder son’s shoulder, although his other arm gently supports the younger child's back showing a distinctive demonstration of warmth towards the younger sibling. The father’s proud posture is less sorrowful, however his face which stares away from the viewer is reflective with a touch of anger. Possibly his thoughts are on his departed spouse or perhaps he is pondering on his abandoned situation.