In 1957, Bernd Becher began taking photographs of industrial buildings in West Germany. The same year, he met Hilla Wobeser, who had also spent time photographing the country's industrial regions. Knowing that much of the infrastructure of these areas would not survive the impending collapse of Germany’s coal and steel markets, they set out to document the buildings and machines of a disappearing economy. Winding Towers exemplifies their approach: the metal structures (which maneuver equipment into the mine shafts below) are framed in a uniform manner, with no workers in sight. As Bernd once commented, “the winding towers . . . look very similar, and you could think that they came from a production series, like cars. Only when you put them beside each other do you see their individuality.” The Bechers' first solo gallery exhibition in North America was held in 1972 at Sonnabend Gallery and included several groups of winding towers as well as photographs of water towers, silos, and gas storage tanks.
Gallery label from Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New, December 21, 2013–April 21, 2014.