Some News from Somewhere Else – Dussedorf School of Photography

Bernd & Hiller Becher

The creation of the Dusseldorf School of photography raised photography’s reputation in Germany as an art form to equal German painting.  As one of the major European art movements since Bauhaus, the Dusseldorf school of photography influences still influences current art photographers around the world.

Bernd & Hiller Becher, the founding artists, were devoted to the tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit following a more documentary approach, based on an objective vision of all levels of German society. The couple’s photographic style is dispassionate, impersonal and focused on nothing beyond the visible forms of the image itself. Industrial archetypes such as the images above were a major theme for the couple and their body of work.

Students of the Bechers include Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth.

Here is a blog post discussing the Dusseldorf school and its influence on contemporary art photography.  Although I agree with parts of his argument, I think many photographers are stuck documenting life instead of interpreting it or adding another layer of value to the photographs.

The Bechers focused on something that was very personal even if the images did not share this face, their story does.  The art photographers were compelled to document their homeland and in their documentation of the Ruhr Valley, The Bechers drew attention to the craftsmanship and design of the industrial buildings.  The Bechers found a similarity of form repeated over and over again and this repetition was repeated in the way they exhibited their work.

Many artists are following the form of this movement without delving into the content. They are taking this style and making it decorative instead of fine art.  If you would like to see more of their work, you can check out their MOMA page and read this Guarian article and this article by the Goethe institute.

The Art Photography coming out of the Dusseldorf School:

Photographer Thomas Struth – Portrait
Photographer Thomas Ruff
Photographer Candida Höfer
Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent II Diptychon, 2001, C-print mounted to acrylic glass, 2x 207 x 307 centimeter.
Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent II Diptychon, 2001, C-print mounted to acrylic glass, 2x 207 x 307 centimeter.

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