The Dusseldorf School of Photography refers to a group of photographers who studied at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the mid 1970s under the influential photographers Bernd and Hiller Becher

Introduction to Dusseldorf School of Photography

1 of 3

Known for their rigorous devotion to the 1920s German tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), the Bechers’ photographs were clear, black and white pictures of industrial archetypes (pitheads, water towers, coal bunkers).

Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth modified the approach of their teachers by applying new technical possibilities and a personal and contemporary vision, while retaining the documentary method their tutors propounded.

Further reading

Cruel + Tender
This Tate Modern exhibition in 2003 brought together photographers who documented overlooked aspects of our world. Read the exhibition guide which has introductions to the work of Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth and the Bechers.

In this article, Carter Ratcliff looks at the place of documentary in art in reference to the work in Cruel + Tender.

Photographers in focus

Bernd and Hiller Becher

Bernd and Hiller Becher were two German photographers who for forty years, photographed disappearing industrial architecture from around Europe and North America. These structures included water towers, coal bunkers, gas tanks and factories. Their black and white documentary-style made their work incredibly recognisible. 

Artist biography
Read our Tate biography on this photography duo. 

Bernd and Hilla Becher
Read the text about this display which explains about their links with minimalism and conceptual art. 

The long look
In this article, Michael Collins profiles the work of the Bechers and how they became winners of 2002’s prestigious erasmus prize for European culture. 

Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff is well-known for documenting building interiors and expression-less portraits. 

Thomas Ruff, 'Goetz Collection' 1994
Thomas Ruff
Goetz Collection 1994
Photograph on paper
image: 1290 x 2425 mm
Purchased 1997© DACS, 2002

Having treated human features as the Bechers treated water towers and blast furnaces, Ruff made his own architectural series: in place of blank faces, the blank faades of banal postwar office and apartment buildings.
Carter Ratcliff

Artist biography
Read Tate’s biography on this artist. 

Thomas Ruff
This 2003 Tate Liverpool exhibition covered Ruff’s substantial œuvre and presents works from ten of fifteen series, from his earliest work in the late 1970s to his most recent. Read the room guide which explores his work by subject (such as nudes and interiors).

Surface tension
This article investigates the work of Thomas Ruff and his statement that his photographs capture only ‘the surface of things’. 

Other persectives

Listen to Thomas Struth speak in a with other international photographers and curators to discuss how landscape is portrayed in contemporary photography.

Elain Harwood on Thomas Struth’s Bankside 5, London 1995
In this article, architectural investigator reflects on Thomas Struth’s Bankside 5

Dusseldorf School of Photography in detail

The Photographic Comportment of Bernd and Hilla Becher
This Tate Paper investigates the world Bernd and Hilla Becher created and how it is installed in the work of their successful students. 

Related glossary terms

Documentary photography