IT IS TEMPTING TO SAY that with the sad news of Bernd Becher’s death in June at age seventy-five we have seen the passing of an era. Curator Emma Dexter, writing in The Independent, memorialized the artist’s contribution by describing the photographic project Bernd and his wife and partner, Hilla, began a half century ago as a “portrait of a lost world, using a lost technology—the gelatin silver prints, the large format plate cameras are now a thing of the past,” so distant from our own glimmering postindustrial world and its snazzy new media that it “can never be repeated.”
Indeed, this characterization seems largely right. Beginning with Bernd’s first photographs of the Eisenhardter Tiefbau mine near his family home in Siegen, Germany, in 1957—the same year he and Hilla met while working at an advertising agency in Düsseldorf—the Bechers’ undertaking had something demonstrably
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