Objectivity and subjectivity in Aleksandr Rodchenko and August Sander

For a long time, the public have accepted photographs to depict visual evidence and has thus made documentary photography possible. However, the acceptance has effectively varied in terms of time because of subjectivity and objectivity in addition to dissemination of information on different themes. Many artists across the world began manipulating photography principles and techniques that dismantled transparency that would see people appreciate photography as a tool to instigate social transformation in societies. Among artists whose works focused on subjectivity and objectivity are Aleksandr Rodchenko and August Sander.

Sander ventured in photography art and thus created a collection of portraits mostly of the German people. He was able to document all their walks of life.  During his period, Sanders was able to establish an excellent visual record of social issues during a period that was characterized by World War I and the rise and fall of the Nazi regime. He was subjective and objective in connecting issues of the past and present through portraits. In most of his artworks, Sander was able to objectively document people and their social life by providing a consistent treatment of his subjects (Neuendorf n.p). However, he was also able to subjectively treat his subjects to give weight to most of his artworks and was invaluable in documenting activities of his time.

Rodchenko was a key figure in Russian Constructivism and was able to reject most of the established techniques, conventions and principles of others artists in regards to self-expression and aesthetics. For that, he was able to dedicate his revolutionary career in presenting art to the masses. Rodchenko was involved in abstract painting and photography that placed and moved artistic objects in space while highlighting dynamic compositions. He was greatly influenced by the Productivist group that advocate for comprehensive integration of art into daily lives of the people. In line with this, he managed to compose subjective and objective arts by reducing most of his masterpieces to their logical conclusion on canvasses.

Rodchenko composed the Non-Objective Painting No. 80 (black on black) in 1918. This portrait was instrumental in promoting his career considering that this was the starting point of futuristic era in art composition. This work objectively extended art beyond the borders of canvasses and principles. In this piece of art, Rodchenko manages to integrate symbols that were synonymous with the creations of Malevich. Further, he manages to use infinite space, achieves continuity and symbolism by depicting spiral objects within the portrait. On the other hand, August Sander through his artwork Boxers composed in 1929 manages to objectively depict two men wearing boxes where one of the individuals is having uncovered chest. This is one of the images where Sander fulfilled his sociological view of art of depicting portraits of individuals, urbanization and environmental landscapes. It differs from the abstract art composed by Rodchenko that does not give any room for the audience to decipher the meaning of art. Instead, Boxers depict objects that are easy for the audience to understand and they can aesthetically connect with.

In my view, the course has been useful as it has made it possible to understand how different artists used subjective and objective composition principles to reach the audience with messages on societal issues. Further, both Rodchenko and Sander were instrumental in initiating new aspects of photography to destabilize transparency. This was necessary to ensure that the audiences were treated to artworks that would appeal to issues that affected them at the time.


Work Cited

Neuendorf Henri. Gallery Hopping: August Sander’s Conceptual Portraits at Galerie Berinson.

The photographer revolutionized conceptual art. Artnet News. Artnet News, 2017. Available at: https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/gallery-hopping-august-sander-galerie-berinson-berlin-854111. Retrieved May 16, 2018.




August Sander, The Boxers: Heim Heese and Paul Roderstein, 1929. Image courtesy of Artnet. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/august-sander/the-boxers-heim-heese-and-paul-roderstein-Pq6_0n7pBsPDH_5PInAKgg2.


Aleksandr Rodchenko, Non-Objective Painting #80 (black on black), 1918. Image courtesy of Utopia, Dystopia. Available at: https://utopiadystopiawwi.wordpress.com/constructivism/alexandr-rodchenko/non-objective-painting-80-black-on-black/.