Bernd und Hilla Becher
Since the end of the 1950s, Bernd and Hilla Becher have been traveling around Europe and North America. They photograph mines, winding towers, gas containers, blast furnaces, power stations, cooling towers, grain silos, warehouses. They have to this very day remained true to their project of an almost encyclopedic stock-taking of anonymous utility buildings from the age of industrialization. In doing so, they opt for a decidedly matter-of-fact and sober visual idiom that is appropriately expressed by black-and-white photography. This ensures that the steel edifices stand out particularly vividly. In the serial setting, the individual shots (which reveal basic shapes and deviations, similarities and differences) merge to form typologies.
Some commentators have discerned a likeness between this photographic series and Minimal or Concept Art; the Bechers themselves first and foremost see their work as continuing the tradition of New Objectivity. In the early 20th century many artists (painters, writers, and directors) found their real issue in the depiction of social and economic realities. In the 1920s and 1930s photographers also devoted themselves increasingly to the everyday lives and working lives of people. The topics and aesthetic means of expression suppressed during the Third Reich are revitalized by the Bechers in their photographs of industrial and commercial premises.
Many of the industrial plants they photographed no longer exist. The buildings were already under threat of closure or of being torn down when the Bechers set about photographing them. Their photographs therefore have a major significance for cultural history, if only for historical-documentary reasons. What is even more important is perhaps the fact that Bernd and Hilla Becher have succeeded in imbuing ostensibly trivial engineered buildings with a value hitherto only accorded great architecture if not sculpture: by eliminating of the customary everyday way of seeing, these functional objects receive a quality that tends to be overlooked in everyday life.
born in Siegen, Germany
studies at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Stuttgart, Germany
first photographs of industrial buildings
studies Typografie at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Germany
dies in Rostock
born as Hilla Worbeser in Potsdam, Germany
apprenticeship as a photographer
studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and created the department of photography
honorary professorship of Hilla Becher at the Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg
dies in Düsseldorf, Germany
start working together
awarded with the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial, Italy
receive the Infinity Award of the International Center of Photography, New York
receive the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography