Photographs copyright Bernd & Hilla Becher courtesy of Schirmer/Moseland Prestel USA
Bernd und Hiller Becher, the German couple who have become well known over the last 30+ years for the development of their industrial Typologies (and how many times have I unknowing read this as Topologies). This book is a catalog, published by Schirmer/Mosel in 2009, for the Becher’s retrospective exhibition at Museo Morandi in Bologna, Italy.
The images printed in the book are reminiscent of the presentation grid style developed by the Becher’s in the 1960’s, in which the photographs are grouped by type or function. Industrial facilities are grouped together to illustrate both their similarities of function but the subtle differences in form. Thus the book’s emphasis is more on the grouping of types of subjects (a.ka. Typology) than the ability to dig into the detail of specific images.
The publishing of the photographic grid I found to be a tease when there is a group of 15 photographs on the relatively small page, which does not allow much of the individual photograph to be evaluated. And from the interview of Hilla Becher provided in the text (Bernd passed away in 2007), the pair do not appear to as much interested in the individual photograph per se, but how the group of like structures play off each other.
The book will provide a sense of Becher’s Typeologies with groups from their collection of Gastanks, Cooling Towers, Water Towers, Winding Towers, Lime Kilms, and Blast Furnaces. From these photographic groupings you can also discern how different cultures adopt similar functional designs and yet how these same industrial functions differ greatly from other geographic regions.
The book may also help with establishing the visual linkage of the early work by the German photographers August Sander and Albert Renger-Patzsch, who were known for either photographing by categorizing types or photographing industrial buildings at a middle distance to emphasize their form.
The catalog provides a high level overview of the Becher’s somewhat rigid photographic process, and it may create an interest to seek one out one of their earlier books which provide more extensive details on one of their many subject types. Not recommended if you are looking for a collection of their work to understand in more detail one of their category types.
The perfect bound with stiffcover book is 8″ x 9″ with 48 pages and 14 duotone plates, encompassing 153 photographic images made by the couple. The accompanying interview with Hilla Becher by Gianfranco Maraniello is in both English and Italian, with beautiful printing and binding from a press in Verona, Italy.
By Douglas Stockdale