Born in Leipzig, Andreas Gursky was educated in the heart of West Germany, first in Essen and then in Düsseldorf, where he became a "master student" of Bernd Becher at the Kunstakademie. Becher and his wife, Hilla, profess and practice a straightforward style of photography that catalogues, with clarity and dispassion, the unselfconscious structures typical of a culture. Their classic technique and typological method recall the work of August Sander, who similarly catalogued German society in the 1920s.
Gursky began by mixing these structural approaches with the traditions of Northern landscape painting. Initially he made easel-sized photographs of vast, softly hued landscapes in which tiny figures played. In the 1990s he expanded the scale of his pictures to wall size and the scope of his subjects to include cityscapes and interiors shaped by industrial, electronic, and other automated functions of modern life.
In "Schiphol" the artist frames the tall clouds, low horizon, and perfect geometries of a runway in the windows of Amsterdam's airport. Deftly laminating the luminous skies of Baroque Low Country painting, the Romantic theme of the windowed view, and the abstraction of De Stijl, Gursky gives us a landscape layered with nostalgia, structured by modernism, and sealed behind glass—an expansive yet neatly delimited vista for human transport.