No. 572 . 05 December 2012 
ArchitectureWeek

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Balthazar Korab's gorgeous modern photography of Eero Saarinen projects like the John Deere Headquarters (1963) is a cornerstone of his wide-ranging body of work. Photo: Balthazar Korab

Balthazar Korab - Architect of Photography

by John Comazzi

Talk with Balthazar Korab long enough, and a consistent narrative emerges — one of a life and career replete with intriguing contradictions. A photographer with no formal training, he first aspired to be a painter but instead studied architecture, and prefers to be known as “an architect who makes pictures rather than a photographer who is knowledgeable about architecture.”

He has practiced in a field of photography dominated by large- and medium-format devices but often favors the quickness and agility afforded by handheld 35 mm cameras. And though he will maintain that his training and practice in architecture provided him with the “necessary skills to more completely understand how a building works,” on location he will often wander with an almost childlike fascination, as if he is searching for something elusive.

His photography demonstrates many of these contradictions as well. His professional images of architecture are recognized for displaying a precision befitting their Modernist subjects, but they are often layered with the idiosyncrasies of atmosphere, weathering, and activity that confound an otherwise “disciplined” picture.

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Korab and his friend László Kollár teamed on a well-regarded entry for the Sydney Opera House design competition. Korab later visited Jørn Utzon's completed building as a photographer. Photo: Balthazar Korab

He has been widely celebrated for his images of iconic Modern architecture, though he often prefers to photograph vernacular buildings, industrial sites, and anonymous structures found in small villages and nameless towns. And when asked to characterize his work in a single sentence, he simply describes it as “softspoken with a bite.”

When examined across the arc of his life and career, Korab’s oeuvre defies clear categories, or rather, it encompasses many — a fact that makes it quite difficult to identify any consistent or signature style.

For while Korab is most lauded for his professional photography of midcentury Modern architecture, his archive is equally punctuated by a remarkably diverse compilation of other, lesser-known (though no less significant) portfolios that yield significant insights into his overall approach to photography.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography by John Comazzi, copyright © 2012, with permission of the publisher, PA Press.

 
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