The Eighth International Photography Month in Moscow
April 10 - June 6, 2010
Bernd and Hilla Becher
Short biography Bernd and Hilla Becher
born in Potsdam on 2 September 1934 as Hilla Wobeser
Received training as a photographer and subsequently worked as an industrial photographer in Hamburg and Dusseldorf.
1958 - 1961 studies at the Academy of Art in Dusseldorf, and establishment of a photography department at the Academy.
born in Siegen on 20 August 1931
1947 – 1950 training as a decorator
1953 – 1956 studies at the Academy of Arts in Stuttgart
1957 – 1961 studies of typography at the Academy of Art in Dusseldorf
died in Rostock in 22 June 2007
1961 marriage of Bernd and Hilla Becher.
1964 birth of their son Max Becher.
Bernd and Hilla Becher already commenced their joint photographic work while they were studying. Having been fascinated from their early childhood by the shape and function of the winding towers, reprocessing plants, furnaces, cooling towers and the timbered houses typical for the Siegerland area, they decided to photographically document these structures, which were exemplary for their time and frequently threatened with demolition. After all, over many decades the industrial plants were integral part of the landscape, and thus particular significance was attributed to heavy industrial structures.
Bernd and Hilla documented objects in industrial areas of Germany, the Netherland, Belgium, France, Great Britain, and the USA.
Apart from their photographic work, they also campaigned against the demolition of the coal mine Zollern II in Dortmund and gave an impulse for a modified perception of industrial buildings.
The photographs are decidedly factual and restricted to black and white, thus giving on spectacular impression at first sight. The works' composition predominantly focuses on the structure and construction of the buildings, which are always free-standing and placed in the centre of the picture. The motifs are in perspective and frontal, but generally photographed under the same conditions of lighting and weather. The works are always devoid of people. The impressive "typologies" of industrial buildings thus created are highly distinctive in their pictorial language.
Bernd Becher was appointed Professor of Photography at the Academy of Art in Dusseldorf in 1976. Jointly with Hilla Becher he taught at the Academy until 1996. This artistic consequence has a lasting influence on the international field of photographic art until the present day.
"Half a Century of Photography"
Sabine Weiss has been a photographer since childhood. She likes to look, and wonder at what she sees. Very early in life she decided to choose photography as her means of expression.
After a few years of study in Geneva she moved to Paris and worked with big-name European and American magazines on reportage and advertising commissions, celebrity portraits and the fashion world.
On her arrival in the capital she immortalised the Paris of the 1950s, the people's Paris with that distinctive post-war atmosphere. Sabine Weiss says this was 'a magical period when gypsy horses reared on hind legs in the wastelands by Porte de Vanves'. Like her friends Doisneau or Ronis, her gaze is tender and she tries to convey her sense of wonder at everyday life.
Curiosity compels her to travel the world. The USA (she married the American painter Hugh Weiss in 1950), Europe, Egypt, India, Morocco, Burma… She is tirelessly drawn to individuals, children, lonely women and those of modest means who find themselves cast out on the margins of society.
Following her own tender and sympathetic impulses, she records encounters, small gestures, interludes of silence; she captures the subtle light of candles, street lamps, car headlights.
For Sabine Weiss photography is 'linked to the instant, a fleeting and entrancing instant that you must seize and formulate, those instants of time and space in which plenitude and simplicity are united'.
"Fall From Grace"
After living and working outside of the United States, my country of birth, for nearly 20 years I began to return on short trips to photograph. My first stop was the inauguration of George W. Bush as President in January of 2001. The road from there would be ten-years and one that would amaze and shock me.
At the turn of this century the United States of America stood alone as the world’s sole super-power. The Soviet Union had collapsed 10 –years earlier leaving the former Soviet bloc countries juggling their corrupt political systems while establishing capitalist based economies. Life in Eastern Europe was chaotic at best. However, America’s economy, politic and culture was thriving like nowhere on earth.
Two major events would change that within 10 years. The first was the election of George W. Bush as Presidency of the United States. This came about after a highly contested election gave him the electoral votes he needed to claim victory even though more then 50% of the country voted for his opponent, acting Vice President Al Gore. President George W. Bush placed his closest friends and allies into power believing deeply that the next century was to be the "America Century". The election and this aggressive ideology deeply divided the country between the Democrats and Republicans, or as more commonly refereed to as liberals and conservatives.
The second event was the September 11, 2001 suicide attacks on the United States. On that morning 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes crashing two of them in to the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City. Both buildings collapsed within two hours. The third and forth planes crashed respectively in to the Pentagon in Washington DC a field in rural Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake control of the plane. There were no survivors from any of the flights. 2,973 victims and the 19 hijackers died as a result of the attacks.
The Bush administration led the country, and the world, first into solidarity against the terrorists and terrorism in general. It attacked Afghanistan where al-Qaeda, the terrorist group thought to be responsible for the 9/11 attacks, housed many of its’ base camps.
Then, within months after invading Afghanistan, the US offensive strategy moved to, what was promoted as: a preemptive strike against Iraq. No evidence was ever found that the Iraqi Government of Saddam Hussein possessed the facilities to strike a neighbor let alone the United States. However evidence of torture by the American troops on both Iraqis civilians and suspected terrorists being held in Cuba’s Guantanemobay, followed the invasion. Millions around the world and in the US, protested both the invasion of Iraq and the torture yet within four-years President George W. Bush was reelected the US President on the grounds that he was tough on terrorism.
As the war in Iraq continued the country's dead and debt mounted daily. Then an unexpected disaster ... New Orleans was flooded by the collapse of its’ level system following the impact of Hurricane Katrina along the coast. An entire US city was in turmoil with the government responding slowly to the needs of those caught in a disaster of monumental scale. The majority of the city’s homes were immersed in floodwaters and destroyed while the vast majority of the city’s population was displaced to other states in the country. New Orleans would never be the same.
The country's economic power was eroding quickly. By mid-2007, with the country deeply over extended at war in Iraq and Afghanistan and still reeling from Katrina, the real economic disaster surfaced. After more then a decade US banks, that had practicing predatory lending on homeowners, began to see loaners default on their loans in mass. It had an economic domino effect. Homeowners began to foreclose at such a rate that the banks could not support the system they had devised. The crisis went global and the US Government began to bail out banks "to-big-to-fail" with billions of US taxpayer funding. The entire US economy went into a depression. Shops shuttered throughout the country and unemployment rates reached 10%.
Areas such as Detroit and Cleveland, that had already seen hard-times, became wastelands resembling industrial areas in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In certain regions unemployment was at 20%+, numbers that rivaled the great depression of the 1930s. Nevada, as well as central Florida and California saw vast neighborhoods turn into miles of foreclosed homes. All of this and a social system that left 50 million people without healthcare insurance. Food production had become so corporate and corrupt that America became the most obese nation on earth.
By the time President George W. Bush left office the United States was on a decline no one could have imagined 8 years earlier. The great America Century had turned into a nightmare. The system had become so immoral that if one fell behind economically there was no way back. The odds were against you in every direction.
By 2008 many Americans truly believed that the Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama was the one man that could bring the country back from the brink. He was voted into office by a landslide against his Republican opponent. "Hope" was the catch phase that he used to bring the country together for a brief period, believing that maybe there was a simply way out of the mess.
Within a year, most of those hopes had been dashed. The country had become so polarized politically that the Republicans refused to back President Obama on a single issue. Not that his stand on any one issue was right or wrong, or that it would hurt or help the country but because he was a Democrat and to the Republicans the Democrats were just wrong about everything.
Attempts at reform fell into political paralysis. Health care reform was watered down again and again to appease the each party and still it never passed as Americans continued to loose their healthcare along with their jobs and homes. In the midst of it all President Obama took the country back to war in Afghanistan believing that it was the right thing to do.
By the end of the first decade -2010, the United States was so bankrupt politically, morally and financially that it no longer held the same place on the world stage. Many Americas felt that their country was at a stand–still, gridlocked politically while they fought on a daily basis for their own financial survival. That said there is always an overriding tone of optimism in America. Time will tell if it is real and the country can help itself or it is another media manufactured illusion – a badly written commercial.