“I am an architect with a passion for nature’s lessons and man’s interventions. My images are born out of a deep emotional investment in their subject. Their content is never sacrificed for mere visual effects, nor is a polemic activism intended to prevail over an aesthetic balance.”
– Balthazar Korab
Korab’s well-conceived balance of spirit and intellect, reverence and curiosity, nature and the built environment is clear in every one of his images[.]
Camille Lefevre | Circumstantial Evidence of Balthazar Korab’s ‘la dolce vita’
Balthazar Korab passed away recently. He was 86. He was notable for the images he took, cataloging the newly constructed modern structures that started dotting the US landscape following World War II.
Mr. Korab captured the romance, moodiness and humanity of even the most austere postwar buildings. “I am an architect with a passion for nature’s lessons and man’s interventions” was how Mr. Korab described himself in a statement on his Web site, balthazarkorab.com. “My images are born out of a deep emotional investment in their subject.”
He was best known for his photographs of buildings byEero Saarinen, at whose office he briefly worked in the 1950s, and of the town of Columbus, Ind., which became a showcase of distinguished modern architecture under the patronage of the industrialist J. Irwin Miller.
“Korab’s portfolios contain frequent sharp reminders that architecture is always entangled in broader cultural circumstances within which it is created and by which it is transformed,” John Comazzi, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota, wrote in “Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography,” a monograph published in 2012 by the Princeton Architectural Press.
Korab’s crisp black + white imagery was harmonious. The immaculate compositions, dynamic use of light and shadow, the way he handled scale.
Korab captured modern landscapes. Our new normal. Our new nature. Every bit as gorgeous or treacherous. Utilitarian. Majestic. Inspiring.
Korab emigrated from Hungary at the behest of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, whose curvaceous designs he would capture in photographs. These form the centerpiece of the career-spanning ‘Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography’, as the black-and-white images capture how Saarinen could stimulate, dwarf and delight the viewer with creations like his terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, whose swoops of poured concrete feel both solidly grounded and ecstatically airborne. As such buildings aged from new constructions into prized landmarks, Mr. Korab has kept working, shooting buildings by Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry and many postmodern architects. But his work’s enduring value is as a document of the push and pull of midcentury, the conflict between the curve and the cube at the moment America became the center of world design.
“Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th Century architecture. There has been a veritable surge of interest in Saarinen’s work in recent years, including a major exhibition and several books. This is partly due to the Roche and Dinkeloo office having donated their Saarinen archives to Yale University, but also because Saarinen’s oeuvre can be said to fit in with present-day concerns about pluralism of styles. He was criticized in his own time—most vociferously by critic Vincent Scully—for having no identifiable style; one explanation for this is that Saarinen adapted his modernist vision to each individual client and project, which were never exactly the same.”
In addition to Saarinen, Mr. Korab has worked with some of the world’s most important architects including Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright – who invited him to join Taliesin in 1958, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Harry Weese, Frank Gehry, Marcel Breuer, Minoru Yamasaki, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Cesar Pelli, and I.M. Pei. His photographic work has been in dozens of exhibits and is found in public and private collections including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the U.S. Library of Congress, and Montreal’s L’Centre Canadien d’Architecture. He also has been featured in a number of publications, most recently the Michigan Architectural Foundation’s text, Great Architecture of Michigan.