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Water Towers

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nine black and white photographs
52 5/8 x 40 5/8 x 1 1/2 in. (133.7 x 103.2 x 3.8 cm)

About This Artwork

Bernd and Hilla Becher document nondescript industrial buildings, such as smokestacks, water towers, and factories. The Bechers used a large-format camera placed at a raised vantage point and allowed a long exposure time to give distant structures crisp, chiseled, sculptural detail. Their subjects show neither human activity nor the splendor of the landscape, though they passively point to both. The photographs capture a fading world, an architectural moment after World War II when the old industrial structure of Germany gave way to the surging needs of a newly robust economy. In their collaborative career, the Bechers completed over two hundred comprehensive documentary collections, each ranging from fifty to one hundred images. In this typology, the Bechers monumentalize and categorize the various forms constructed for storing water, each designed and built with its own idiosyncrasies while generally remaining the same.