In this image [Sander] lends his subjects a surprisingly inoffensive air, thus distracting from any mutinous ambitions they might harbor.
August Sander usually photographed industrial workers in a way that obscured their role within the German economy. When photographing these dockworkers, he also obscured the subjects' role in German politics. Working conditions in naval yards were known to be quite poor and gave rise to numerous militant uprisings; in this group image, however, each man maintains a dignified posture, a stance no doubt derived from occupational pride.
Lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with their hands stuffed in their pockets, these dockworkers form an imposing barricade to the entrance of what is probably a waterfront warehouse. A foreman in white shirt and black vest stands in the front row flanked by workers in the scruffy, striped shirts that signal their place in the labor hierarchy.