The Complicated and Fascinating History Behind This Photo

Behind every photo is a story, one that is often far more complex and nuanced than can be encapsulated in a single frame of a single moment in time. Go behind the scenes of this famous photo and hear how the story of its subjects is far more complex than the image and its title make it seem.

Coming to you from The Art Assignment, this fascinating video dives into the history behind "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance," a photo taken by August Sander around 1914 before the start of World War I. The photo seems simple on the surface — a semi-candid capture of a trio of young men on their way to a social event. And yet, that surface level simplicity almost deceives the viewer; it can be easy to read the photo as a microcosmic glance at a simpler time, but rather, it is merely an infinitesimal sliver of the intersection of nuanced and complex timelines of individual human life and larger forces, a single point of space and time amongst innumerably many other points, and by considering those other points proximal to it, we gain a greater appreciation for both the photo and those in it. 

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2 Comments

Alec Kinnear's picture

Very interesting background explanation of a wonderful portrait (hint: there are no farmers in the picture). Does the narrator ever stop shaking his head and looking vaguely sceptical though? Looking and speaking like high school's worst know it all.

Claire Whitehead's picture

The narrator is John Green, He's a pretty well known Young-adult Author and Youtuber.