Bernd and Hilla Becher: Landscape/Typology

Bernd and Hilla Becher. Winding Towers, Belgium, Germany. 1971–91. Gelatin silver prints, each 15 3/4 x 12 1/8″ (40 x 30.8 cm). Lent by Hilla Becher. Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York. © Hilla Becher

The German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher, who began working together in 1959 and married in 1961, are best known for their “typologies”—grids of black-and-white photographs of variant examples of a single type of industrial structure. To create these works, the artists traveled to large mines and steel mills, and systematically photographed the major structures, such as the winding towers that haul coal and iron ore to the surface and the blast furnaces that transform the ore into metal. The rigorous frontality of the individual images gives them the simplicity of diagrams, while their density of detail offers encyclopedic richness. At each site the Bechers also created overall landscape views of the entire plant, which set the structures in their context and show how they relate to each other. The typologies emulate the clarity of an engineer’s drawing, while the landscapes evoke the experience of a particular place. The exhibition presents these two formats together; because they lie at the polar extremes of photographic description, each underscores the creative potential of the other.

Organized by Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Photography.

Bernd and Hilla Becher: Landscape/Typology Exhibition

see also Tate Papers The Photographic Comportment of Bernd and Hilla Becher


5 thoughts on “Bernd and Hilla Becher: Landscape/Typology

  1. The number of these photographs is amazing. Surely these images would lose a great deal of interest if it weren’t for the massive size of the collection. Viewing these complicated structures altogether, as we did when we saw the video, was almost dizzying. The sterile, systematic, and precise recording of these structures almost acts as architectural diagrams.

    While these images may have no instant emotional impact on the viewer, they are depictions of the way in which industrialism and architecture have forever interrupted our view of the natural landscape. The longevity of this project is a testament to the lasting affect industrialism has had on our world.

  2. The images seem to mimic the mechanical way that industry works, it is heartless and calculated. The images show the industry as it is, hence the large numbers straight and forward nature of the imagery.

  3. This is an interesting comparison of industrial structures. It shows similarities between these structures and also how the shapes can vary. Its interesting to see how these structures and technologies may have changed over time.

  4. The process of documenting the same types of structures in many different locations, is something that intrigues me. When you start to think about it, that with all these industrial structures, besides little nuances. they are all do the same thing and look the same. So it really becomes useless to know where each one is specifically located, because they are the same.

  5. The repetition of imagery really draws me to them. They also seem really skeletal and vacant. I think the symmetrical and static way of framing these images really highlights that feeling.

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