Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher “Coal Bunkers” 1974


Husband and wife photographers began taking images of old industrial sites in the 1950s, they described their subjects as “buildings were anonymity is accepted to be the style”, this seems an contradiction as anonymity can be seen as unremarkable. Therefore the buildings show a paradox where you question what is seen as interesting in the world. Just because they are old and unknown does not mean they are not remarkable. These coal bunkers were located in Germany, France and Britain which the novice viewer would not have noticed. The photographs of pitheads (entrance to the coal mines) were all taken at British collieries between 1965 and 1973. Almost all the bunkers had been demolished within only a few years. This detail highlights the fast industrial development of the world and how quickly things become old and unwanted. Perfectly visualizing the quote which I am focusing on “if success is rare and slow everybody knows how quick and easy ruin is” (William Thakeray).

In previous years these collieries would have been very busy; to show they are deteriorating the photographers do not show any activity. It is static with no people working or any machinery. The colour also adds to the feeling of being not used, the greys and blues are dull and creates an archaic feel. The use of colour film would have created a tone of vibrant life and that the places are used and would distract you from the detail of the buildings. They are all taken at the same distance from camera so no one particularly stands out. The buildings as a whole are the main subject not a particular one. The focal points, are the lines either on the buildings, like top right image or a part sticking out e.g. bottom left. It made me take a second glance and wonder if they had taken great care on where they were placing the images in the frame.

The middle section in a row, link with the lines slanting to the left. The top and bottom are harder to see a pattern. The top has one section going right and the other two in the middle of the building. The bottom two down towards the right and the other poking to the right. And there may be a pattern with the column. This may be to make it more interesting to the eye and make you wonder. It reminds me of a jigsaw and shows how they do not fit, linking to how they do not fit with the modern world.They have chosen to take 9 different coal bunkers to show the different types and make you look at all of the images as a whole. If there was a repeat you may just take a quick glance. Each building is placed at the middle section of the image to make them all similar and can easily compare. The photographers have kept one angle looking at the entrance to show what people outside would see, it restricts you from seeing ‘inside’, establishing that the buildings have been abandoned. The interior is of no use to people any more, no longer providing the resource to the world. The scale is of 1495 x 1003 mm which allows you to look at all the buildings and see the detail, they are large to show how the photographers believe they are still interesting a visual history to see. But are not of very large scale to show how they are no longer popular.


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