How the Düsseldorf School Remade—and Redeemed—German Photography

When reading art history, it’s easy to slip into imagining the artist alone in a dingy garret, awaiting the world to recognize his artistic glory. But the idea of individual genius is somewhat of a romantic conceit. In most cases, artists were also once students, perhaps plodding through school exercises, or emulating a mentor.

Take the exalted alumni of the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Germany. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the university program in the Rhineland nurtured a remarkable number of young talents who would rise to be towering figures—particularly in the field of photography.

Known for its distinctly dispassionate documentary style, this group became known as the Düsseldorf School of Photography, and their vaunted roster includes Andreas GurskyCandida HöferThomas RuffThomas StruthElger EsserJörg Sasse, and Axel Hütte, among others.

 

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