Bernd & Hilla Becher’s heirs: Struth, Gursky and Ruff

Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky and Thomas Ruff, considered some of the most internationally acclaimed contemporary photographs, have all in common to have been influenced by Bernd & Hilla Becher’s pictorial language, under whom they have studied.

The three photographs indeed go on in creating art infused with the cold and scientific distancy their teachers were famous for. Adding thus some distortion on reality, and a certain impression of loosing hold on materiality and existence.


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Coal Bunkers, 1966-1999, by Bernd + Hilla Becher

  • In Thomas Struth’s photographs of streets, buildings, and squares, the viewpoint is the one of someone who would move into the the urban landscape. The use of black and white and the empty streets contribute to increase the distance and soberness of the picture as well as the impression of loosing hold on reality. The scientific-kind series and inventories of streets, flowers, museums, buildings, railways, which are normally  rather unconsciously perceived by passersby, enhance the abstractism of reality, although this urbanism is the witness of human development. The daily is here presented as unusual.

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  • Andreas Gursky usually opts for a bird eye’s perspective,  from far above the scenery, giving a feeling of awkwardness as human cannot see from so far away naturally. Furthermore, while seeing we root ourselves in a particular place. But Gursky shows us a scenery with no particular standpoint. In this prospect Gursky questions our experience of the world, allowing our eyes to achieve what we are not capable of, that is to see the overall scenery and its details in one blink. This create a distance from reality and the overwhelming richness of details recall sthat of an inventory.

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  • Fascinated with astronomy, Thomas Ruff uses negative produced by anonymous astro scientific hand, from the observation shots of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) based in the Andes in Chile. But these photographs prove to be deceptive as the photochemical substance reacts only to light. Indeed, starlight can only be perceived after a delay, as the speed of light shows us places that can even not be here anymore. The paradox is that the places we see with these photographs may not exist anymore.

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