Bernd Becher (1931 - 2007) & Hilla Becher (1934 – 2015)

The photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher (née Wobeser) transformed the ways in which we all view the monuments of past industries, showing that ruins can have dramatic and aesthetic qualities. Bernd Becher was born in the Siegerland, Hilla in Potsdam. They met in 1957 at the Kunstakadie in Düsseldorf, and two years later, when both were freelance photographers, began collaborating in photographing industrial monuments 1959. They married in 1961.

The Bechers developed a new approaches and are regarded as founders of the Becher School or Düsseldorf School of photographers. They used large format cameras and worked only on dull days rather than in sunshine. Their prints were displayed in grids because ‘by placing several cooling towers side by side something happened, something like tonal music, you don’t see what makes the objects different until you bring them together, so subtle are their differences’.

At first they worked in in Germany, particularly in the Siegerland, but in 1966 they made a lengthy tour of the industrial areas of England and South Wales in a VW camper van towing an aged caravan. They staged an acclaimed exhibition in Munich the following year and subsequently worked in Belgium, France, Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United States amongst other countries. Their work has been displayed in exhibitions in many of Europe’s principal art galleries. Bernd Becher was professor at Düsseldorf Kunstakademie between 1976 and 1996. Their work is best known through their books, Water Towers (1988), Blast Furnaces (1990), Gasholders (1993), Mine Headstocks (1997), Cooling Towers and Grain Elevators (both 2006).