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These recent photographs were taken in formal English and Italian gardens. The shape and mystery of these places are a natural draw for me as they offer glimpses of the rich traditions of garden making. I am interested in garden history and historical concepts of paradise, and aim for pictures that have a meditative quality to reflect the spiritual urges that inspired the earliest gardens some six thousand years ago. My images are not depictive. I use the land before me as a jumping off point, implying light or shadow where perhaps there was none, as a way to create my own path through the garden. In fact, by positioning the lens, cropping my prints, and using burning and dodging to guide the viewer's eye through a picture, I feel that I too am a gardener in a sense. I am after that "slant of curious light" that is the genius of a place
photographs & quote via bethdow.com
I like Beth Dow's work, because when looking through her book, you are not confronted with the presence of other people. The uniform style (including format of the images) keeps you in this fantasy world until you reach the back cover.
Aesthetically, Dow is great at composing frames that have a clear symmetry/vanishing points.
The idea that human try to tame seemingly wild nature and capture it's most organized form (in the most organized way) is what engaged me with her photographs.
Among the comparisons made in the Bechers typologies are those based on the structures' function (water tower, blast furnace, cooling towers, etc.), shape, size, location, materials, date, and multiple views of a single structure. As their archive expanded so did the types of possible comparisons. The water towers, in Typologies, unlike those described by Jappe, are a type specific to New York City. The two pieces depicting winding towers illustrate very different organizing principles—one large scale and durable, the other ad-hoc. The comparisons are not didactic, but in bringing together disparate views and distant objects they provide an entirety new experience. In 1974 the Bechers noted that they sought "to collect the information in the simplest form, to disregard unimportant differences and to give a clearer understanding of the structures. We wanted to provide a viewpoint or other a grammar for people to understand and compare different structures. This is often impossible in their natural setting."
The Bechers often go to great lengths to make their comparisons as clear and consistent as possible. They most frequently utilisze a high viewpoint (often erecting scaffolding), photograph the most planar view of a structure (its silhouette), and use the perspective correction controls of a view camera. They photography in even light and come close to filling the frame with the main structure; this not only minimizes temporal and geographic clues but provides an identical photographic scale to objects of disparate sizes.
A photographic typology not only provides a new setting for the study of a subject, it visually preserves that subject. From the start the Bechers understood that the structures that interested them, those whose external form visually mirrored their function, represented a specific moment in the history of industrialization. Both the structures and the way of life they represented were in the process of disappearing as a result of technological obsolescence as well as depletion of natural resources. Thus the Bechers often find themselves in a race against the clock. Of mineheads reproduced in the 1985 book on the subject, forty-five were then in use, thirty-nine were abandoned, and eighty-eight were already destroyed, despite the fact that almost all were twentieth-century creations.
The Bechers have expanded and refined their project during the past decade. When exhibiting these prints they have used either a wall or a room as a typological unit. They have worked extensively with the more complex, often anthropomorphic, forms of blast furnaces. Certain works, such as the series of typologies depicting details of coke plants and hot blast stoves exhibited at Sonnabend Gallery in 1988, are overt in their biomorphic, even sexual, implications. The Bechers' stated admiration for the nineteenth-century photography and Flaubert seems more appropriate than ever. As Hilla Becher has noted, admiringly, "In the 19th century, you have both the object and the metaphor and if you use them in the right way it becomes so fascinating that in the end you can really say: this is a certain object, it has a name and so on, but it also stands for a certain historical condition.
In 1975 the Bechers were among ten artists included in the exhibition New Topograhics. Much attention was paid to this exhibition's concentration on suburban development and vernacular architecture. The Bechers' relation to the other photographers in New Topograhics was tangential, considering their historically specific choice of subjects, their participation as the only Europeans, and their use of multiple images to compromise a single artwork.(In "Typologies: Nine Contemporary Photographers" by M. Freidus, 1991)
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By placing photographs of similar subjects alongside each other, the individual differences emerge, making the fine details in each picture more noticeable, more distinct. Drawing on this, they began exhibiting the pictures as typologies; by the early 1960s they showed their work only in typological groups. Typically, a piece of work would comprise four small prints of, for example, water towers, adjacent to a larger print of one of the four. They would not supply prints of individual pictures; the typology was the work. Later, their typologies contained prints of equal size, measuring 30 cm by 40 cm. It could be three rows of five prints, a grid of nine or, in one case, 28 blast furnaces in three rows; a symphony of industrial structures.
The Bechers' pictures do not have to be viewed in typologies in order to make sense, as they have validity as individual images. The typology has been developed for two reasons. First, by amassing such a detailed survey of industrial structures they are revealing sets and subsets, much like 19th-century zoologists did. With water towers, for example, there are round steel ones with conical tops, like hats, and semi-circular ones. Others are circular with sloping roofs, or without roofs, or on steel derricks, or brick towers, and so on. The more fine the differences, the better they are illustrated by the typology.
Second, the typology used by the Bechers emphasises the rewards of close scrutiny, and it is this that makes each and every one of their pictures fascinating. By presenting 15 water towers in a grid, the first effect is an imposing mass of industrial structures. You must stand back in order to take them all in as a group, but to look closer at an individual picture it is necessary to draw nearer.
Up close, only one tower is visible at a time. Isolated in pristine, black-and-white definition, this everyday object is revealed as an 'anonymous sculpture', an unostentatious but fabulous creation by mankind. To compare it with the others is to stand back again, and from here the impulse is to step up and examine another. Just as the beauty of the individual structure (for that is what they are) is there to see, so together as a typology they are a thrilling spectacle.
Apart from presenting them as typologies, the Bechers produced a series of monographs covering a range of industrial structures. In these finely printed books, the pictures are published one to a page. They are like portraits and the devotional aspect of their work becomes apparent. Photography, like film, has two specific properties. The first is that the photograph will record far more than the eye could see at the time of exposure. It traps details so finely on the negative that it would take the naked eye a long time to uncover the same amount of information. As with a view from a window, one can look and look and look, always seeing more.
(via Tate Magazine Issue 1)
It's like after years of walking around barefoot, I have finally found a shoe that fits - and it all falls into place. Hilla and Bernd Becher are in my eyes the masters of Typology. While obviously, Candida Höfer's images are easier to look at, if it wasn't for the Bechers, most German photographic talents would have never been born.
With photography and the Bechers as inspiration, for the first time have I found something that I can call my own and pride myself with. Even though I am German!