Bernd & Hilla Becher

(b. 1931, Siegen – d. 2007, Düsseldorf)
(b. 1934, Potsdam, lives and works in Düsseldorf)

Recognized for their “typologies” – grids of black-and-white photographs of variant examples of single types of industrial structures – Bernd and Hilla Becher began working together in 1959. They traveled to large mines and steel mills, and systematically photographed the industrial architecture waning away in West Europe as the whole complexes of heavy industry were being closed down in the 1970s. The rigorous frontal perspective of the individual images gives them the simplicity of diagrams, while their density of detail offers encyclopedic richness. At each site the Bechers also made overall landscape views of an entire plant, which set the individual structures in context and and relationship to one another. The Bechers even blended this approach, using, for instance, mainly similar views of different blast furnaces in one panel but slipping in just one or two examples taken from differing vantages, thus inviting the viewer to look very closely at the composition. By grouping photographs of similar structures in grid configurations, the Bechers sought both to establish that these structures constituted a distinct category or “typology” and to show the range of variation that occurs within any given typology. The Bechers influenced subsequent generations of artists working with photography, most notably the students taught by Bernd Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf including Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth.