The tradition at the Düsseldorf School of Photography
The tradition at the Düsseldorf School of Photography began when Bernd Becher was called to the Düsseldorfer Kunstacademie art academy in 1976, and received the first professorship in photography. He and his wife, Hilla Becher – also a very distinguished and renowned photographer – worked for many years, conceptually and systematically, in the field of architectural and industrial photography.
Factory sites, silos and furnace buildings became the centre of photographic art. Over decades, it documented industrial sites in Europe and the USA. Each object was featured as objectively as possible. The position of the camera was always selected so that no perspective views distorted the object that was being photographed. The light conditions were also selected in such a way that objects would not be disturbed by light and shade, or cloud formations in the background.
The design characterised by the Bechers, objects with the highest possible objectivity, and reflections or portrayals of objectivity are often represented as a continuation of the “New Objectivity” style from the twenties and early thirties. The Bechers are seen as pioneers of German conceptual photography.
This style became the trademark of the Düsseldorf School of Photography. In the period between 1976 and 1996, 87 photographers studied under Professor Becher and were named “Becher’s students”. Many of them have now become internationally renowned. Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and probably the most well known, Andreas Gursky, studied under Bernd Becher.
The development of photography to art
As their photography was not considered art until the late seventies, it is clear to today’s viewers that the Bechers did not need to fight for recognition in their works and training. Free from conventions, they developed and taught their own style, while using portrait and landscape photography.
In the eighties, photography in Europe experienced a major boom and the young photographers gained high recognition at exhibitions worldwide.
The immediate consequence was that graduates from the Düsseldorf School of Photography, particularly those who studied under Becher, developed into photographers who were sought after in the art market. This stamp of quality and reference to their teacher, in connection with the documentary tradition, was a mark of quality for a long time, identifying excellence and guaranteeing potential for value growth.
Today, the art market and the students of the Düsseldorf School of Photography are long disentangled from the strictly documentary Becher tradition.