I have taken pictures from an early age and subsequently, I’ve been producing ‘work’ for over 50 years. I have no formal education in Photography. I am entirely self taught.
So it comes as no surprise I only recently heard the term “New Topographics” applied to a style of images.
First coined by William Jenkins in 1975 when he was describing a group of photographers such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz and Bernd and Hilla Becher. At the time each of whom adopted a similar banal aesthetic in their formal black and white prints of the urban landscape.
For them and their ilk, car parks, suburban housing, pit-head winding gear, water towers etc were depicted in high quality, stark beauty – as the TATE says on their web site “almost in the way early photographers documented the natural landscape” – hence, I suppose, the term was coined from seeing a new topography directly opposing the picturesque images from the past.
Bernd and Hilla Becher were lecturers at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. There they influenced a number of students who actively embraced the “New Objectivity” as practised by the Becher’s, forming their own modified style of their tutors called the “Dusseldorf School of Photography”.
The TATE lists Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth as members of this modified Becher style.
Despite my ignorance of the term, the style somehow must have sunk in. Even from my early years with a camera; gas holders, the urban landscape and dereliction attracted me. I was once accused of being a member of the “Dustbin school” of photography. (There was no such school. It was just an insult).
Coincidentally, a few years back we were in Mumbai where, at the time, there was a travelling exhibition of works by the Becher’s. I knew nothing about their work; it mattered not, gas holders and water towers did it for me. Loved it.
To read more about:-
The TATE. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/n/new-topographics
Dusseldorf School of photography.