"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 (1926 - 2013)
Balthazar was an influential and A.I.A. Gold Medal photographer of architecture. In 2011 the Library of Congress acquired Balthazar's film archive of 6-700,000 pieces. Today, Korab Image tends to a print archive of 10-15,000 prints, plus more film, drawings, watercolors, writings and ephemera. The prints, film and papers remaining with Korab Image are substantially the artistic and intellectual work of Korab's career drawn from the much larger collection, ever open to interpretation.
Throughout his career, Balthazar Korab was understood primarily through the filter of his editors, while Balthazar himself held a significantly broader vision. The 2012 monograph by John Comazzi, Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography, reintroduces Balthazar’s lifework in contexts greater than the media of architectural practice.
Commercial and commissioned imagery comprise a majority of Balthazar’s film archive, yet his professional practice must be understood alongside the artist’s creative sensibilities. Presenting a lifetime of prints, film, drawings, watercolors, writings, and ephemera, the archive of Korab Image hails Balthazar’s undersung efforts to achieve a holistic interpretation of our humanity in relation to the built environment.
Mid-century modernist architecture represents just one portfolio in the full range of Balthazar’s 50-year career. He spent his life envisioning treescapes, Mayan temples, Tuscan hill towns, Roman roofscapes, the vernacular architecture of Michigan, Indiana, China, Yemen, and provocative subjects such as American car culture and urban growth and decay. Our print archive catalogues the images and stories that only Balthazar wished to make. Here you see Balthazar as he saw himself.
Unlike contemporaries Ezra Stoller and Julius Schulman, Balthazar was a practicing architect. He apprenticed with Le Corbusier, served as one of Eero Saarinen’s principal designers, and was personally invited by Frank Lloyd Wright to work at Taliesin. With these experiences, Balthazar nurtured his humanist vision of our built environment. He honored each space with a respect for ornamentation, and with boyish joy he romanticized even the plainest sight.
Balthazar regarded himself not simply as a photographer but as an architect who makes imagery. Recall Le Corbusier’s 1923 manifesto, Towards an Architecture, in which he states “through the relationships [the architect] creates, he stirs in us deep resonances, he gives us the measure of an order that we sense to be in accord with that of the world.” So trained, Balthazar spent a lifetime summoning drama from inert stone in hopes of stimulating one’s eyes truly to see. As Jefferey Potter inscribed the 2012 AIA Presidential Citation awarded to Balthazar, his photographs offer “unique opportunities to discover the very essence of an object, revealing a reality that otherwise would not be seen.”
Indeed, this reality testifies to Balthazar’s own fulfillment of The American Dream. As a refugee of World War II and Soviet-occupied Hungary, Balthazar had the great fortune to raise a family in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan while exploring the world. Yet rather than simply documenting architects’ works of art, Balthazar chose to interpret our built environment on behalf of its citizens, laborers and founders—never sacrificing truth for beauty. In short, committing himself to the holistic image.
In 1964 Balthazar received the prestigious AIA Medal for Architectural Photography, recognizing his prolific output of superlative imagery. Over his 50-year-long career, Balthazar was commissioned by, among many others, Gunnar Birkerts, Frank Gehry, John Johansen, Albert Kahn, Louis Kahn, Maya Lin, Isamu Noguchi, Cesar Pelli, I.M Pei, Roche & Dinkeloo, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Minoru Yamasaki. And in 1994 US President Bill Clinton selected 11 prints by Balthazar as a national gift to Hungary's president Árpád Göncz.
Balthazar's work has been exhibited by MoMA, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Centre Canadien d’Architecture, and The Venice Biennale. Upcoming exhibitions will be hosted by Tethys Gallery in Florence, Parrish Art Museum, and Brooklyn Art Museum. His prints live in collections such as The Chase Manhattan Collection, The Menil Collection, and The United States Library of Congress.