Photographers You Should Know: Bernd and Hilla Becher

“Photographers You Should Know” is something that I aim to make a regular feature on this blog. Here I will profile well established or historically important photographers that I feel those interested in photography should know about. Originally it was my idea to start this section with a different photographer, however a recent interview posted Jörg Colberg’s Conscientious blog made me choose Bernd and Hilla Becher to start with.

© Bernd and Hilla Becher, large, steel storage tank, circa 1960s, silver gelatin print

Bernd and Hilla Becher were a German husband/wife photographic team. They began photographing together during the 60’s and have continued until the present. Bernd Becher passed away in 2007, yet his wife still continues their photographic work.

The Becher’s are known for their photographs of old industrial buildings and structures such as water towers,  gas tanks, and blast furnaces, to name a few. They used a typological approach to photography, where they photographed many different versions of something, for example blast furnaces, and later these various structures can be studied side by side to reach a better understanding of them.

“We studied this anonymous architecture, object after object, until we understood the enormous variety of the subject.”

Hilla Becher – Conscientious blog

This is perhaps what is so amazing about the Bechers, the sheer amount of things they photographed. Once set on a new type of structure, they would attempt to photograph as many variations of it as possible. In this regard their work serves as a historical archive of this aspect of life. Their influences however, go far beyond this.

Bernd Becher taught at the world famous Düsseldorf Academy. In this way he passed on the Becher’s aesthetics and ideas regarding art and photography. Current big name photographers that came from the “Becher School” include Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky, both of whose work borrows from the Bechers.  Their cold dead pan aesthetic can be found in much of today’s contemporary fine-art photography and is sure to influence generations of photographers to come.

If you have a moment read the great interview with Hilla Becher by Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, it is available in English at Conscientious. Big thanks go out for the translation. The interview gives a rare, brutally honest and at timesn I would sayn cold look into the life of two artists whose work was their life.

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One Response to “Photographers You Should Know: Bernd and Hilla Becher”

  1. debasys Says:

    I am not much of a photographer myself, but i can tell this black n white pic looks cool! Just discovered your blog searching for ‘photos’ in wordpress.com

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