Art Term

New topographics

New topographics was a term coined by William Jenkins in 1975 to describe a group of American photographers (such as Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz) whose pictures had a similar banal aesthetic, in that they were formal, mostly black and white prints of the urban landscape

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, ‘Pitheads’ 1974
Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher
Pitheads 1974
Tate
© Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

Many of the photographers associated with new topographics including Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Nicholas Nixon and Bernd and Hiller Becher, were inspired by the man-made, selecting subject matter that was matter-of-fact. Parking lots, suburban housing and warehouses were all depicted with a beautiful stark austerity, almost in the way early photographers documented the natural landscape. An exhibition at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York featuring these photographers also revealed the growing unease about how the natural landscape was being eroded by industrial development.

The new topographics were to have a decisive influence on later photographers including those artists who became known as the Düsseldorf School of Photography.

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