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Bernd & Hilla Becher

Starting in the late 1950s, Bernd and Hilla Becher (b. 1931, Siegen – d. 2007, Rostock; b. 1934, Postdam – d. 2015, Düsseldorf) developed an important photographic oeuvre that documented the industrial structures of northern Europe at a time when they were falling into disuse. Working in black and white and in typological series, the German couple adopted a style that aspired to objectivity, with frontal compositions, diffuse light and few anecdotal details. The Bechers’ work sits within the tradition of documentary photography of the first half of the 20th century, notably the portraits of August Sander (1876-1964). Systematically cataloguing the sites of heavy industry, the mines with their pit-head frames, the treatment plants, the miners’ houses and warehouses, but also the blast furnaces, cooling towers, water towers and gas storage tanks, the Bechers behaved like archaeologists of the industrial era and contributed to a new way of thinking about a working class heritage that was in the process of disappearing. The series of 18 Hauts Fourneaux in the Mudam Collection bears witness to a bygone era in the Greater Region and Wallonia. “From an anatomical point of view,” Bernd Becher pointed out, “the blast furnace corresponds to a body without skin. The internal organs, the arteries and the skeleton determine its shape.” Major figures in the history of contemporary German photography, the couple left their mark on a generation of photographers through their teachings at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, among whom, Candida Höfer (*1944), Thomas Struth (*1954), Andreas Gursky (*1955) and Thomas Ruff (*1958).


  1. Bernd & Hilla Becher 18 Hauts Fourneaux, 1969-1986

    Ensemble de 18 photographies noir et blanc
    40 x 30 cm chacune
    Collection Mudam Luxembourg
    Apport FOCUNA
    Acquisition 1996
    © Photos : Rémi Villaggi

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