I recently encountered the phrase "Becher typologies". While, I understand the meaning of typology with respect to classification and categorization, Becher typologies do not seem to fit this definition. They appear to involve grids of photos.

What is the meaning of "typology" in photography? Besides Becher typologies, what other photographic typologies are there?

One of the answers at Why are the Becher typologies considered artistically valuable? partially answers this question. This question is not a duplicate of that one because it asks about the "artistic value" of Becher typologies, which is completely subjective. While artistic relevance may be included as part of an answer to my question, I am concerned about the objective definition of typology with respect to photography.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that this should be a trivial question. But it is apparently necessary because of all of all of the photography-is-about-gadgetry-and-math-and-all-art-is-clearly-incomprehensible close votes on the linked question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 22:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Does this really need a separate question? Shouldn’t this be elucidated as an answer to the other question, or even expanded upon in the the actual other question itself? \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 22:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @scottbb Yeah, that would be better. Or, alternately, this could be a meta question focused on Are they relevant to photography? If so, how? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 1:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ However, having searched, I think this question would stand on its own if it were about typologies in general (and not specifically/only Becher). Just searching typology photography gives several different results. Granted, many refer to Becher (perhaps that's the prototype typology), but as a concept, I think this is an excellent general terminology question. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 2:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Why are the Becher typologies considered artistically valuable? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 6:58

1 Answer 1


The Becher typologies are a series of photographs that comprise the primary body of work of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

These photographs are presented as grids of photographs of similar buildings or structures, in the manner of a catalog or of a scientific study — hence "typology". The Bechers produced images in this project over the course of almost 50 years.

Further, they are artistically significant, in the sense outlined here, because they were intentionally made as a "polemical return to the ‘straight’ aesthetics and social themes of the 1920s and 1930s in response to the gooey and sentimental subjectivist photographic aesthetics that arose in the early post-war period".

Examples of this work can be found in the Tate Gallery, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Met, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and elsewhere.

Other photographers have since been inspired by this work, and in general, a typology is a catalog-like series of photographs in this same vein, usually done with a degree of technical rigor and unflinching realism but a mundane subject — and usually with some form of social commentary.

For example, I recently saw an exhibit in the town I live showing homes in the process of being renovated. From the photographer's statement:

In the tradition of German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, who documented variations in industrial structures such as grain silos and water tanks, GUT JOB seeks to describe the typology of houses gutted for renovation in my city of Somerville, MA, across the river from Boston.

The deadpan presentation, similar to the Bechers’ grids, belies the violent social and cultural upheaval of gutting single and multifamily dwellings and converting them to luxury condos or residences.

Gary Duehr: Gut Job

  • \$\begingroup\$ Generalized question to "What are photographic 'typologies'?" Think your answer can survive mostly intact with the addition of a preamble. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another example to perhaps work in thetypology.com \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:27

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