Secretary at West German Radio, Cologne

Secretary at West German Radio, Cologne is a black and white photograph taken by August Sander in 1931. It was part of his project Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts, documenting the different social classes and occupations of the people of Germany.


The photograph depicts a young woman working at a radio station in Cologne in 1931, during the last years of the Weimar Republic. The woman is quietly seated in a chair, while she looks at the viewer, holding a cigarette near her mouth with her right hand, which she seems to be smoking. She wears a fashionable silk flowery dress and has a very short hairstyle, typical of the "new woman" of the Weimar Republic, which adds to her androgynous look. The woman represents the emancipated woman of her time, capable of working for a living.[1]

On the same occasion, Sander took a similar photograph of the sitter. In this version, the woman is still seated, legs crossed, and looks directly to the viewer, seemingly more relaxed, holding her left hand on her right arm, which holds the cigarette.[2]

The picture has similarities with the Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden (1928), by the painter Otto Dix, which might have served as an inspiration. The esthetic of both portraits shows the influence of the New Objectivity artistic movement.[3]

Public collections[edit]

There are prints of this photograph at the August Sander Archive, in Cologne, the Moderna Museet, in Stockholm, the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa.[4][5][6]


  1. ^ Modern Photography, The Art Story
  2. ^ How August Sander faced up to modern times, Apollo, 10 August 2022
  3. ^ Behind August Sander’s Portraits, Hauser & Wirth
  4. ^ "Moderna Museet". 18 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Museum of Modern Art, New York". 18 May 2023.
  6. ^ "National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa". 18 May 2023.