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.
Bernd Becher was born in Siegen on August 20th
apprenticeship in scene painting
sojourn in Italy
studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Stuttgart under Karl Rössing
first photographs of industrial buildings
studied Typografie at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
Hilla Becher was born as Hilla Wobeser in Potsdam on September 2nd apprenticeship in photography, then worked as a commercial photographer in Hamburg and Düsseldorf
moved to Düsseldorf
studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and created the department of photography
beginning of the collaboration of Hilla Wobeser und Bernd Becher
photographs of industrial plants and houses, especially in the area of Siegen
marriage of Hilla Wobeser and Bernd Becher
photographs especially in the industrial districts of the Siegerland, the Ruhr area and the Netherlands
first photographs of mines in the Ruhr area, cements factories in Southern Germany and lime factorys in the Netherlands
first photographs in the industrial districts of Belgium, France, and Luxemburg
first photographs of mines in England, Wales, und Scotland
scholarship of the British Council for six months in England
first photographs in the USA
honorary professorship of Hilla Becher at the Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg.
more photographs in the industrial districts of Western Europe and North America
Bernd Becher professor of photography at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
awarded the Golden Lion at Venice Biennial
awarded the Kaiserring in Goslar
awarded the Staatspreis des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf.
awarded the prize of the Architekturmuseum Basel
awarded the Erasmuspreis in Amsterdam
Infinity Award of the International Center of Photography, New York
Death of Bernd Becher
Death of Hilla Becher