As both artists and teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher are among the most important figures in postwar German photography, having trained a generation of artists. At first glance, their work may appear affectless in its encyclopedic approach to the industrial vernacular, but many views parade the photographers’ emotional and aesthetic leanings. Shot from an elevated and, what they call, "ideal" vantage point, this view of a Hannover coal mine’s various structures takes the appearance of a monumental family portrait, encompassing various generations built between the mid-nineteenth-century and World War II. The oldest mine here is housed in the castlelike edifice of a type called a Malakoff Tower, so named after a strategic fort that survived an 1856 siege during the Crimean War. Found in the most unlikely of places, such cultural patrimony is under perrenial threat of erasure once older structures fail to accommodate up-to-date industrial methods. While the Bechers most often worked against time to record architectural forms for posterity, this Malakoff Tower found preservation by a local museum of industry. Inverting the progress of generations, the oldest structure now stands as a lone fossil, while many of the surrounding structures were demolished about 1980.
Inscription: Signed, titled, dated, and numbered in pencil on print, verso
the artist; [Fraenkel Gallery, San Francsico, by 2010]
Fraenkel Gallery. "Furthermore," April 22, 2010–June 26, 2010.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 57," August 22, 2011–January 9, 2012.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Poetics of Place: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection," December 12, 2016–May 29, 2017.
Becher, Bernd and Hilla. Industrial Landscapes. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 2002. p. 46.
Becher, Bernd and Hilla. Zeche Hannover/Hannover Coal Mine. Cologne: Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, 2010. p. 23.
Fraenkel, Jeffrey. Furthermore. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2010. no. 23.