A Class of Their Own

The Düsseldorf School of Photography

Maren Polte (Author),

Series: Lieven Gevaert Series 24

Category: Art, Media and Visual Culture, Photography

Language: English

ISBN: 9789462701045

Publication date: April 24, 2017

€39.50 (including 6% VAT)

Buy Now

Number of pages: 264

Size: 230 x 170 x mm

Stock item: 116695

Standard delivery time for print books:

For Belgium: 5 to 8 working days

For EU: 2 to 3 weeks

For other countries: 4 to 5 weeks


The pioneer group of the Düsseldorf School.

The ‘Düsseldorf School’ has become a household name in the art world for one of the most successful and influential strains of modern photography. Coined in the late 1980s, the name refers mainly to the pioneer group of students of the late Bernd Becher, who in 1976 became the first professor for creative photography at a German arts academy. His students included Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth, all of them today internationally acclaimed artists in their own right. Whereas ‘Düsseldorf School’ initially was used as a handy term for a group of artists with the same university’s background, it quickly turned into a powerful brand name both in critical and commercial contexts. Despite its welcomed impact on the art scene, the members of the ‘School’ felt rather ambiguous about their perception as a group which turned them into stars but simultaneously risked levelling individual profiles and differences. What exactly connects and distinguishes them aesthetically is for the first time thoroughly explored in Maren Polte’s pioneering study.


I. Bernd and Hilla Becher
1. Origins
2. Aesthetics
3. Reception
4. Teachings

II. Foundations of the Düsseldorf School
1. Points of departure
2. Themes and orientation
3. Conceptual Photography of the 1960s
4. Conventional methods of photography in the 1970s

III. Development of pictorial rhetorics
1. The switch to colour
2. Expansion of format
3. Construction
4. Digital and analogue abstraction

IV. Reflexive and self-referential aesthetics
1. Observation and re-organisation
2. Sociograms
3. Multiple functions
4. Reflection of media

V. Tradition
1. References to form
2. Critical engagement with painting
3. Genres
4. Reception

VI. Principle and difference
1. ‘The Big, Still Picture’ (Das große stille Bild)
2. “Finders”
3. “Fabricators”
4. Summary

Notes Bibliography Color section

Maren Polte

Maren Polte teaches art history and heads the Department of Art Mediation at Bern University of the Arts.

In her thorough investigation, Polte shows how the Bechers’ visual analytical approach reverberates in the individual pictorial idioms their students developed, leading them, as Polte notes, on a path from ‘image into picture’. [...] fresh and much-needed perspectives on what constitutes photography in Germany today. [...] highlight important areas in which photography defines identity, and in turn how concepts of identity are applied to photography.

The Burlington Magazine, May 2018, Jule Schaffer

Related titles