The Düsseldorf School of Photography (DSP) is a new and relatively understudied phenomenon. Thriving most prominently from the 80’s onwards its photographs appears in exhibitions worldwide and are included in photography and contemporary art auctions. Gursky’s The Rhein II from 1999 illustrates the popularity of the DSP aesthetic, being the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction for $4.3m at Christie’s New York.
The DSP origin can be dated in 1976, the year when Bernd and Hilla Becher start teaching a photography course in the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. Their first course had eight students including Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff, in 1978 Petra Wunderlich joined and in 1980 it was Andreas Gursky time.
There was no manifesto or clear organisation as a group coming from its participants, which is quite curious since the group is so easily described as a unit by the market. Besides the Bechers (Bernd died in 2007 and Hilla in 2015), all others members are alive and still producing new works, what brings difficulties whilst categorising one within a defined group or school as their practice as still evolving, and new works are being created.
Photographers through history rarely present themselves as part of a group or movement, in comparison to painters for example. What motivates this classification in the DSP case is the fact that besides being in the same class room, the group shared and incorporated the Bechers’ conceptual elements.
In this weekly series of post will focus on two examples and their market: the Bechers and Candida Höfer. And in the future we will explore other artists from the DSP.
Looking forward for next week where we will explore the Bechers practice in more detail.
Becher, Hilla and Bernd (1973). Zeche Hannover, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhrgebiet, Germany. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017. Gelatin silver print. Image: 45.7 x 58.4 cm (18 x 23 in.) Sheet: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.) Frame: 75 x 93 cm (29 1/2 x 36 5/8 in.). Artwork © Bernd & Hilla Becher.