Bernd und Hilla Becher

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Ilseder Hütte, Ilsede/Hannover, 1984, 75 x 91cm, b/w photograph
Bernd und Hilla Becher, Zeche Hannover 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhrgebiet, 1973, 75 x 91 cm, b/w photograph
Bernd und Hilla Becher, Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet, 1963, 75 x 91 cm, b/w photograph
Bernd & Hilla Becher, Bucyrus, Ohio, USA, 1982, 75.2 x 91.5 cm, b/w print
Bernd & Hilla Becher, Loomis Breaker, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, USA, 1974, 75.25 x 91.44 cm, b/w print
Bernd & Hilla Becher, Passau, 1988, 75.25 x 91.44 cm, b/w print
Bernd & Hilla Becher, Industriefassaden, 1967-1999, 12 Fotografien je 30 x 40 cm, gesamt ca. 173 x 191 cm, b/w prints
Bernd und Hilla Becher, Industrial Facades, 12 photographs je 40 x 30, 2000, gesamt ca. 173 x 191 cm, b/w photograph

Functional Buildings

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.

Biographical information

Bernd Becher


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

Hilla Becher


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