Bernd and Hilla Becher met while they were working for an advertising agency in Düsseldorf in the late 1950s. Bernd had trained as a painter and lithographer, and Hilla had studied photography. Working collaboratively, they began to document the often overlooked architecture of industrial sites around Europe and the U.S., taking photographs of structures such as cooling towers, lime kilns, pitheads and silos, many of which were soon to become obsolete.

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

They usually take several views to provide a clear and objective documentation of each structure. The prints are then grouped according to certain categories and are often arranged in a grid to highlight typological similarities and differences. Bernd Becher taught at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, and their work has become an important influence for many of his former students, including Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth.