Bernd and Hilla Becher

Bernd Becher ( born August 20, 1931 in Siegen, † June 22, 2007 in Rostock) and Hilla Becher, born Wobeser, ( born September 2, 1934 in Potsdam) acquired as an artist couple with their black-and- white photographs of half-timbered houses and industrial buildings (such as winding towers, blast furnaces, coal bunkers, factories, gas holders, grain silos and complex industrial landscapes) international reputation as a photographer. They founded the famous Düsseldorf School of Photography. After the death of Bernd Becher Hilla Becher leads the photo artistic work continues with new works.


Bernd Becher studied from 1953 to 1956 at the Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart painting with Karl Rössing and from 1959 to 1961 at the Düsseldorf Art Academy typography. Hilla Becher graduated in Potsdam trained as a photographer. She had started as a child with the pictures. As influential to their development they called August Sander. Hilla Becher studied from 1958 to 1961 at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art Photography. Hilla and Bernd Becher married in 1961.

Bernd Becher had already begun before the study in order to draw industrial monuments and paint. At the same time he gained contact sheets of industrial buildings. For documentation and as a template for drawings and paintings he made from 1957 photographs. About collages of photographs and drawings, he got together with Hilla to the purely photographic documentation.


Bernd and Hilla Becher took their common photographic practice while studying. Their aim was to document industrial buildings that were typical at risk for their development period and in many cases by demolition. You went there, except for its documentation of Siegerländer half-timbered buildings, always to industrial production and those industrial buildings that were associated with the production of goods. Characteristic of their actions are often " settlements ", six, nine, twelve, or more photographs of the same object at specified differing angles. This " typologies " of industrial buildings were erected.

The photographs were designed mainly objective. In their recording techniques Bernd and Hilla preferred cup central perspectives, distortion-free, empty of people and a soft overcast sunlight. This also details are reproduced accurately, they used large format cameras with the size 13 x 18 cm. The composition of the pictures can be strongly prominent, the surface structures and the construction of buildings generally centrally positioned.

Bernd and Hilla Becher documented in their style half-timbered houses of the winning country, industrial plants in the Ruhr, the Netherlands, Belgium, France (especially Lorraine), United Kingdom ( mainly Wales ) and the USA, as well as water towers and gas tanks. In view of the steel and coal crises of the 1970s and 1980s she photographed many buildings that disappeared shortly thereafter forever. Thus arose with her ​​work a unique collection of industrial buildings in all their diversity, as they have survived only in a few isolated examples. Bernd and Hilla Becher have coined the industrial architecture of the concept of " nomadic architecture", the construction and demolition of these buildings but to the interests of capital utilization and profit recovery follow ( quote: " nomads left no ruins. "). In this sense, understand the Bechers as archaeologists of industrial architecture. Your work is search for clues and cultural anthropology at the same time.

The photographic work of Bernd and Hilla Becher is a series concept in the sense of the New Objectivity. From the perspective of fine art conceptual art, it soon became associated. From this recognition and notoriety were far beyond the photograph. Through joint exhibition with artists of conceptual art and minimalism, first in the exhibition Prospect in Dusseldorf, the work was artistically recognized and appreciated internationally soon. This happened at a time when, particularly in Europe, photography as an artistic medium was still no recognition (in contrast to the U.S., for example, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston ). Ileana Sonnabend discovered the Bechersche work for the United States and taught at her New York gallery in 1973 his first solo exhibition. 1973 photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher were presented in Paris.

Bernd Becher took over in 1976 at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf, a professor of photography, but the couple understood together as a teaching and cooperated closely in the training of students. They trained many photographic personalities who are known as " Becher School " today from an international perspective outstanding representatives of German photography. These include, inter alia, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Axel Hütte, Elger Esser, Götz Diergarten, Petra Wunderlich and Tata Ronkholz.

In 1984, the cup in the exhibition curated by Kasper König exhibition " From here - Two months new German art in Dusseldorf " exclusively represented by a catalog essay. ( ' Pure ' photography was in the German contemporary art rather rare at this time, but this should change a few years later with the increased presence of the " Becher student " in gallery and museum exhibitions. )

Besides by their photographic work were also known for their use against the demolition of the colliery Zollern II in Dortmund Bernd and Hilla Becher. They gave order to kick start a different relationship to industrial buildings, as they have not been understood as monuments Industrial Heritage and the declaration of the shaft and blast furnaces seemed hard to imagine a part of the world cultural heritage. Based on this, the Becher students Martin Rosswog documented 1985/1987 life and work of the miners on Zollern II / IV.

Bernd and Hilla Becher participated in the Documenta 5 (1972 ), Documenta 6 (1977 ), Documenta 7 (1982) and Documenta 11 (2002) in Kassel part. They are represented with their works in the leading European and American museums and in many private collections.

After both long years in the Einbrunger mill in the north of Düsseldorf had her studio, they shifted the beginning of the 21st century home and studio in one of the artistic archive Kaiserwerth converted old school in the center of Dusseldorf - Kaiserwerth.

On 22 June 2007, Bernd Becher died at the age of 75 years at a difficult operation in a hospital in Rostock.



  • Anonymous sculptures. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Art-Press/Düsseldorf 1970, ISBN 978-3-9212-2408-3.
  • Winding towers. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel, 1985, ISBN 3-88814-173-7.
  • Bernd and Hilla Becher. Typologies. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel, 1990, ISBN 3-88814-417-5.
  • Pennsylvania Coal Mine Tipples. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel, 1991, ISBN 3-88814-408-6.
  • Gas tank. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 1993, ISBN 3-88814-493-0.
  • Basic forms. Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Thierry de Duve (ed.), Schirmer / Mosel 1993, ISBN 3-88814-704-2.
  • Factory buildings. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 1994, ISBN 3-88814-730-1.
  • Water towers. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 1998, ISBN 3-88814-255-5.
  • Mines. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Architecture Museum Basel 1998, ISBN 3-905065-02-9.
  • Half-timbered houses of the Siegen industrial region. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 2000, ISBN 3-88814-005-6.
  • Industrial landscapes. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 2000, ISBN 3-8296-0003-8.
  • Series Bernd & Hilla Becher. Bernd and Hilla Becher and Anne Grigoteit, Schmidt / Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-87439-460-3.
  • Blast furnaces. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 2002, ISBN 3-88814-352-7.
  • Typologies of industrial buildings. by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 2003, ISBN 3-8296-0092-5.
  • Bernd and Hilla Becher 's life and work. by Susanne Lange, Schirmer / Mosel 2005, ISBN 3-8296-0175-1.
  • Grain silos. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 2006, ISBN 3-8296-0256-1.
  • Mines and Foundries. Bernd and Hilla Becher, Schirmer / Mosel 2010, ISBN 978-3-8296-0467-3.