Sunday, October 02, 2011

janet malcolm | struth on the bechers

Spherical Gas Tanks | Hilla & Bernd Becher

Thomas Struth entered the Kunstakademie in 1973, and studiesd with the photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher. The Bechers are cult figures, known in the photography world for their typologies of water towers, gas tanks, workers' houses, winding towers, and blast furnaces, among other forms of the industrial vernacular.

"Eventually their meaning in the history of art will be linked more with their teaching and the influence it had than with their work."

I asked Struth about the influence on him of the Bechers' pedagogy.

"They were fantastic teachers in the way that they demonstrated the complexity of connections. When you met with Bernd and Hilla they didn't talk about photography alone. They talked about movies, journalism, literature - stuff that was very comprehensive and complex. For example, a typcial thing Bernd would say was 'You have to undertand the Paris photographs of Atget as the visualization of Marcel Proust.'"

I said, "I don't get it. What does Atget have to do with Proust?"

"It's a similar time span. What Bernd meant was that when you read Proust that's what the backdrop is. That's the theatre."

"Did you read Proust while you were studying with the Bechers?"

"No, no. I didn't."

"Have you read Proust since?"


"So what was the point for you of connecting Atget with Proust?"

Struth laughed. "Maybe it's a bad example."

SolarWorld Factory | Thomas Struth

from Depth Of Field" by Janet Malcolm
The New Yorker, September 6, 2011