Typology is a systematic classification or the study of types. In photography it usually consists of a series of photographs taken at the same angle, in the same lighting conditions and filling the same amount of frame. Individual images are then assembled as a panel.

Karl Blossfeld, Plant No.38

There are several significant photographers that have chosen this style for their work starting with Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) who used a home made camera that enlarged his subject by up to 30 times. He concentrated on photographing flowers, nuts, seeds and other plant life. When his work was eventually published in 1928 he became an international bestseller and his book has been a significant read for photographers and botanists ever since.

Probably the best well known photographers of this style are German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. Beginning to work together in 1958 they began by travelling around the German Ruhr and Holland to large industrial sites and photographed the large structures they find there. They later also photographed in Britain, France, Belgium and USA.

Bernd and Hilla Becher. Winding Towers, Belgium, Germany.

Their images of water towers, blast furnaces, pitheads and winding towers are clearly detailed and appear to look more like diagrams than photographs.

The early morning flat light gives the viewer a detached feel and the inclusion of surrounding objects and buildings gives a very real sense of scale.

For the Becher’s, this style of photography came from a love of the environment and a desire to document and record the structures that were being dismantled as industry was disappearing.

In a different style, but also in the 1960’s, Ed Ruscha’s book ’26 Gasoline Stations’ is another notable typology. Taken between Ruscha’s home in Los Angeles and his parent’s home in Oklahoma City the photographs are all taken from the street and often include the forecourt and the street.

Ed Ruscha, 26 Gasoline Stations

Another project of Ruscha’s was to photograph every building on the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas.

Over the past decade, Donovan Wylie has photographed military watch towers around the world. First in Northern Ireland where he grew up and then on to places like Afghanistan and Canada.

The watchtowers are all shot at eye-level, often from a helicopter against a plain sky so that you can easily see the differences and similarities between them.

Donovan Wylie, A sign of things to come … Northern Ireland, 2006. South-east view of Golf 40, a British Army surveillance.


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