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What happened to the young farmers? Watch the Art Assignment video here: https://youtu.be/3AVNhTi9pzM

In which John falls way, way down the rabbit hole while researching August Sander's photograph Young Farmers 1914, also known as Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance.

Thanks to Tuataria. You can join them here: http://www.tuataria.com/

And thanks also to Reinhard Pabst, whose reporting made this video possible.

And if you want to join Life's Library: http://lifeslibrarybookclub.com

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Good morning Hank it's Tuesday, I'm a little sick sorry about my voice.

Okay so I've been thinking about this picture for a little over half my life. One of my favourite books is about it, I made a Vlogbrothers video about it, I even own a recent print of it. And so when Sarah asked if I'd be interested in making an Art Assignment video about the picture, which is known as 'Three Young Farmers on Their Way to a Dance' and was taken by the German photographer August Sander in 1914, I said "Of course!" and started doing some research.

Whereupon I fell way way down the rabbit hole. One of the great pleasures of research for me is that I can become consumed by it. Like, I started out on a German language newspaper site about who those boys actually were, where I learned that they were not, in fact, farmers. And then pretty soon I was on genealogy sites and looking up military records and google maps and obituaries.

I just love that feeling of being lost in a world of research, like Rebecca Solnit wrote: "Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away; getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing". And as I learned more about the young farmers who weren't actually farmers, I got both kinds of lost. This utterly familiar picture turned out not to be what I thought it was and something unfamiliar began to appear.

Along the way, I learned about two other pictures, which I couldn't find anywhere on the internet and I don't think have ever been publicly seen. One was another photograph by Sander, taken three years earlier, that showed one of the boys- Otto Krieger- with his family. The negative for that photo was probably destroyed during World War II along with 30 thousand other Sander negatives but there seemed to be a print of it somewhere. The other picture was a postcard sent home by the boy in the middle- August Klein- as he and Otto prepared for war.

I mean I understand this is not a big deal to most people, but those boys are the subject of one of the most important photographs of the 20th century and there were more pictures of them out there that could give us a glimpse of their lives both before and after the critical moment of history that was the late spring of 1914.

But despite combing through every Sander picture ever published, I couldn't find them. And then after a few days, I was at a dead end when it occurred to me that I actually knew a team of extremely talented cyber sleuths in the form of Tuataria- the community that sprang up when Rosianna and I were running a scavenger hunt before Turtles All The Way Down was published.

Tuatara is very very good at solving mysteries and so I asked them for their help- could they verify what I had already learned, and possibly hunt down those two other pictures?

Indeed, they could, via correspondence with the extraordinary reporter Reinhard Pabst, we eventually found the pictures and secured the rights to share them.

Here is Otto Krieger aged 17, three years before Sander took the famous photograph and also three years before Otto would go to the front to fight in World War I. And here are Otto and August, after war has broken out. You will note the distance between their expressions in the famous photo and in this one, which was only taken a few months later.

I tell the whole story, or at least what I know of it, in the Art Assignment video, which I'll link to in the dooblydoo below, but I wanted to tell the story behind the story here for two reasons.

First, this whole experience has reminded me that just because you look at something, or someone, everyday, doesn't mean you're seeing all that there is to see. And secondly, mysteries large and small usually don't get solved by one person. Like, we talk a lot about the human capacity for competition but I think our secret weapon as a species is our capacity for collaboration.

So thank you to Reinhard Pabst and everyone at Tuataria for working together to give us two more glimpses into those young lives.

Hank, I hope you enjoy the Art Assignment video, again the link is below, I will see you on Friday.

P.S. We're opening up some more slots in the Life's Library Book Club if you wanna read books with Rosianna and me and a vibrant community of readers which incidentally includes many people from Tuataria. You can learn more at lifeslibrarybookclub.com (is something I would have tweeted but I don't have Twitter).

Alright, I gotta go drink some tea with honey in it.