Andreas Gursky creates work characterized by the tension between the clarity and formal nature of his photographs and the ambiguous intent and meaning they present, occasioned by their insertion into a ‘high-art’ environment. It is comparable to that of contemporaries such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff and Candida Höfer, all of whom were influenced by the documentary approach of Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Gursky was born in Leipzig, Former East Germany in 1955. His family relocated to West Germany, moving to Essen and then Düsseldorf by the end of 1957. From 1978 to 1981, he attended Folkwangschule, Essen, where he is said to have studied under Otto Steinert. However, it has been disputed that this can’t really be the case, as Steinert died in 1978. Between 1981-1987 at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Gursky received strong training and influence from his teachers Hilla and Bernd Becher, a photographic team known for their distinctive, dispassionate method of systematically cataloging industrial machinery and architecture.
In his early 20’s, he studied photography at the Folkwang School, West Germany’s leading establishment for professional photographers. His early, unadorned compositions are heavily influenced by his years at Folkwang, where the curriculum was largely focused on the straight-shot techniques of photojournalism.
In his resplendent large-scale photographs, Andreas Gursky captures the modern world, and its landscapes, people, architecture, and industries, in seductive detail. Shot from an elevated perspective and produced on an epic scale, Gursky’s images show the individual or granular—supermarket products, soccer players, windows on a building, or islands in the sea—subsumed by the masses or the environment.
His mature work developed rapidly after 1990, as he began to focus on scenes and places representing the international sentiment of contemporary society. Excessive detail became a hallmark of his contemporary idiom, evident in photographs such as 99 Cent and the May Day series. Today his work continues to depict scenes occurring in immediately recognizable urban spaces, ranging from department stores and hotels to the German Parliament and the Chicago Board of Trade.
Gursky lives and works in Düsseldorf.