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White Gray Black

Hilla Becher (German, born 1934)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

German photographers. Bern(har)d Becher (b Siegen, 20 Aug 1931) served an apprenticeship as a decorative painter in Siegen, then studied painting and lithography at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Stuttgart (1953–6) and typography at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf (1957–61). There in 1959 he met Hilla Wobeser (b Potsdam, 2 Sept 1934), who had trained as a photographer in Potsdam and, after a period as an aerial photographer in Hamburg, had moved to Düsseldorf in 1957. They married in 1961. Together they developed a documentary approach to photographing their industrial surroundings that introduced new kinds of social, cultural and aesthetic questions about the increasing destruction of many late 19th-century buildings. They systematically photographed half-timbered houses, cooling towers, water towers, blast furnaces and derricks of the same or similar design, forcing the viewer to compare and judge the buildings from unfamiliar aesthetic standpoints. This photographic documentation was not based, however, on a system of encyclopedic thoroughness, nor on a theory of objectivity, but primarily on the desire to express their own social and political views. For this reason, they excluded any details that would detract from the central theme and instead set up comparisons of viewpoint and lighting through which the eye is led to the basic structural pattern of the images being compared. This principle, which is allied to the philosophy underlying the New topographics movement, is most obvious in the two published series, Anonyme Skulpturen: Eine Typologie technischer Bauten and Typologien, Industrieller Bau, 1963–1975, in which the images are contrasted in groups of three. Their work was also published in Die Architektur der Förder-und Wassertürme (Munich, 1971). In 1977 the Bechers began teaching at the photography department that they set up at the Düsseldorf Kunsthochschule.

Reinhold Misselbeck
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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