Watertower, 2 Views, Liverpool, Great Britain

Bernd and Hilla Becher German
Bernd Becher German
Hilla Becher German

Not on view

Both as artists and teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher are the most important figures in European photography since 1950. Influenced by the formal rigor and typological method of prewar artists such as August Sander and Walker Evans, they were considered equals and fellow travelers by Minimalist sculptors such as Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt and paved the way for the medium’s integration into the broader arena of contemporary art. As professors at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, their influence was paramount on the celebrated generation of photographers known as the “Düsseldorf School” such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Candida Höfer.

The Bechers photographed against a blank sky and without any pictorial tricks or effects, using an old-fashioned tripod-mounted view camera of the kind used by Eugène Atget and Walker Evans. They treated their subjects as “anonymous sculpture” (the name of their first monograph) that could only be fully rendered through either multiple views from different perspectives or more often, through the typological accumulation and serial presentation of multiple specimens. Although they were artists not scientists, the Bechers used an almost Linnean system of classification—another important 19th century precedent which they made resolutely modern.

Watertower, 2 Views, Liverpool, Great Britain, Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959–2007), Gelatin silver prints

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