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)

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.

  • Photography

    Photography refers to the process or practice of creating a photograph – an image produced by the action of light on a light-sensitive material

  • Documentary photography

    Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage

  • Dusseldorf School of Photography

    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 Hilla Becher

explore this term

  • The long look

    Michael Collins

    Bernd and Hilla Becher have spent their life together photographing the unintended beauty that can be found in industrial structures. Michael Collins profiles the winners of 2002’s prestigious erasmus prize for European culture.

  • The Photographic Comportment of Bernd and Hilla Becher

    Blake Stimson

    Bernd and Hilla Becher first began their project of systematically photographing industrial structures in the late 1950s. This paper, first given at a conference at Tate Modern, investigates the rhythmic continuity of the comportment or bearing toward the world that they have made into an epic form and that has gained broader influence in the work of their successful students.

  • Artist and Society

    Explore artworks from Tate's collection that respond to their social and political context

  • The Purloined Landscape: Photography and Power in the American West

    John Beck

    John Beck argues that Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘The Purloined Letter’ (1844) about a secret hidden in plain sight offers insights into the relationship between Western US landscape photography and the restructuring of the terrain by military-industrial interests after the Second World War.

selected artists in the collection

selected artworks in the collection