Hilla Becher, who alongside her husband, Bernd Becher, changed architectural photography forever and influenced an entire generation of artists, died on October 10th aged 81 from a stroke. The Bechers first became popular for their typologic photo series of water towers and other features of the industrial landscape in the 1960s and 70s. They removed artistic decision-making from the process and described their approach as being “objective”. Like mug shots for building facades, each print depicted its subject in the same isolated manner.
Their radical new approach was met with derision by many critics, especially in the U.S., where one commentator compared their work to the “sort of pictures one sees in a real estate office.” What singled out the Bechers, however, was their rigorously unsentimental stance. Their images are a deadpan chronicle of the built-up landscape, subtly shedding light on the social and environmental effects of industrialization. At a time when factories and silos were rendered obsolete, forgotten like the workers who had once labored inside of them, the Bechers were there to document the decline.
Over the years Hilla and Bernd Becher became hugely influential, both taking up positions at the photography department of the Düsseldorf Art Academy, where they had first met. Such artists as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Ruff all directly cite the Bechers as having had enormous influence on their practice. In fact so distinctive was their style, and so astonishing their success that these artists soon became known as the Dusseldorf School of Photography.
The Bechers were awarded the Golden Lion for sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1990. Highly regarded and appreciated during her lifetime, FAM sends its condolences to the family and friends that Hilla Becher leaves behind.
To view the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher available on fineartmultiple please click here.