The German artists Bernd (1931 - 2007) and Hilla Becher (1934 -) who began working together in 1959 and married in 1961, are best known for their ‘typologies’ - grids of black and white photographs with variant examples of a single type of industrial structure.
Bernd Becher studied painting at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart from 1953 to 1956, then typography under Karl Rössing at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie from 1959 to 1961. Prior to Hilla Becher's time studying photography at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie from 1958 to 1961, she had completed an apprenticeship as a photographer in her native Potsdam.
The Bechers first collaborated on photographing and documenting the disappearing German industrial architecture in 1959, and had their first gallery exhibition in 1963 at the Galerie Ruth Nohl in Siegen. They were fascinated by the similar shapes in which certain buildings were designed. In addition, they were intrigued by the fact that so many of these industrial buildings seemed to have been built with a great deal of attention toward design. Together, the Bechers went out with a large format camera and photographed these buildings from a number of different angles, but always with a straightforward “objective” point of view. The images of structures with similar functions were then displayed side by side to invite viewers to compare their forms and designs. These structures included barns, water towers, storage silos and warehouses.
The formal frontality of the individual images gives them the simplicity of diagrams, while their density of detail offers encyclopaedic richness. At each site the Bechers also created overall landscape views of the entire plant, which set the structures in their context and show how they relate to each other. The typologies emulate the clarity of an engineer's drawing, while the landscapes evoke the experience of a particular place.
They were the 2004 winners of the Hasselblad Award. Quote: “Bernd and Hilla Becher are among the most influential artists of our time. For more than forty years they have been recording the heritage of an industrial past. Their systematic photography of functionalist architecture, often organizing their pictures in grids, brought them recognition as conceptual artists as well as photographers. As the founders of what has come to be known as the ‘Becher school’ they have brought their influence in a unique way to bear on generations of documentary photographers and artists.”
Spherical Gas Tanks
Plant for Styrofoam production
Blast Head Furnaces
Concrete Cooling Towers