Sunday, June 24, 2012

LIFE Photographer Walter Sanders

Today we are going to cover the work of LIFE photographer Walter Sanders. Sanders who was born in Germany, but left for the US after Hitler came to power, had the unique opportunity to return to his native land after the war. He photographed a unique part of the new infrastructure, the Constabulary units. The Constabulary units were a military force that served in Germany until 1952 as a means of providing the stability that Germany’s post-war government could not. They patrolled the borders, provided security, seized contraband, etc. But while in Germany, Sanders also discovered the work of one Wally Cohn.
Cohn, who himself had been born in Germany and whose family left when the anti-Semitic fervor increased, had a post-war design idea for the jeep as he was serving with the Army Air Force in Nuremberg. Using a late 1930’s German Opel Olympia, he married the car’s coachwork to the jeep drivetrain in a beautiful blending of form and function. It was certainly unique, but not the first idea of its kind.
The unnamed models that Cohn created seem to be lost to time. I have no idea if any of them still exist or if they ever made their eventual way to the states. They follow the footsteps of an earlier vision by the designer Brooks Stevens (of the Jeepster, Wagon, Forward Control, Wagoneer and Cherokee fame...) of a post-war ‘Victory’ car based upon the jeep. Read more research on the Victor car by eWillys’ Dave Eilers here.

Outside of unofficial coachwork modifications such as larger fenders, hardtops and yes, even bubbletops that were performed on the MB in many a motor pool (see some

excellent Hemmings Motor News articles here and here) they gained such an interest with the bored GIs of the occupation forces that they were officially endorsed in competitions sponsored by the American command in Germany. Popular Science, in fact, had already beaten them to the punch by asking for reader’s ideas on a post-war prettying-up of the jeep in their February 1944 issue which you can read here.
I love these photos by Sanders of Cohn and his jeep that were so beautifully shot.  For even more info, there are other excellent articles by eWillys here and Hemmingshere. Make sure that you scroll all the way down to the comments section in the Hemmings article to read an entry by Wally Cohn’s grandson.
Come back next week and we will have the last entry by the last remaining LIFE photographer. Its a large one and I may even have to split it up into two weeks. The week or possibly two following that I will mop up with entries on the uncredited photographs and the extras by the photographers that I already have detailed that I have found afterwards in my research. 
I am also looking for more detailed bios and info on any of the LIFE photographers shown here. Especially for Walter Sanders’ career. I just could not find much concrete info on him and many others such as John Downey, Nat Farbman, William C. Shrout, George Skadding, George Strock, James Whitmore and Jack Wilkes. If you have anything to add, please contact me at Thanks.
And PS. If you haven’t already seen it, I designed a new t-shirt based upon nine vintage jeep advertisements. Its the perfect tee for summer! Check it out here.

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