Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Balthazar Korab, RIP

For several months I have been planning to write about modern architectural photography, given the strange coincidence of new monographs on two mid-century greats, Balthazar Korab and Ezra Stoller. Sadly, this post is in memorium for them both. Stoller died in 2004; Korab passed away last week at the age of 86 in Troy, MI. Both were indefatigable chroniclers of American modernism. Stoller was the better known, author of the canonical images of much East Coast architecture, particularly the sharp-edged and glassy corporate towers. But Korab was a loyalist, and as such his work has an intimacy Stoller’s lacks, documenting process as well as perfectly polished product. The covers of the two books show their difference in a nutshell. Both use images of Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal (1962), perhaps the era’s most photogenic building. Stoller’s image shows people on the move, the interior of the terminal a collage of light and dark, the stairs and ramps backlit by great oval windows. The building is as much void as it is solid. Korab, by contrast, shows a moment of repose, a traveler in the background with hip cocked against a counter. The foreground is filled with one of Saarinen’s exquisite tiled curves, accentuated by a gradient of light and shadow. In places you can hardly see the lighted tile, in others they fade into shadow. But one is weill aware of the physicality of that curve, and the way it was made. The edge is not sharp but looks nibbled by thousands of regular teeth.