In 1954, a young Hungarian went to work with Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. As his then colleague, Cesar Pelli, describes him: “[He] was a small sensation: he had a fur-trimmed coat, a homburg, and a Van Dyke beard.” His design bona fides were equally exotic: He had been a distinguished architectural student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, in Paris, and a draftsman under Le Corbusier. But even though he did substantive design work in Saarinen’s studio, he was quickly tapped as the in-house photographer, creating pictures that became indelible symbols of the Mad Men age of Modernism.
More than 200 of his photos are cataloged in Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography (Princeton Architectural Press), a new picture book by John Comazzi, who details the émigré’s moves from Budapest to Paris and the United States. Despite his artistic accomplishments, Korab considers himself “an architect who makes pictures rather than a photographer who is knowledgeable about architecture.” Indeed, it is his specific insights about buildings that inform the way he is able to exploit light and shadow in ways that perhaps couldn’t have been achieved with an untrained eye.
View out the above slideshow for some of Korab’s best pictures. Particularly interesting are the process shots, like the one of the large-scale model of Saarinen’s TWA terminal, which gives the impression of being in the space. According to the photographer: “The clients were shown a slide show of the photographs, and the effect was so successful that they bought the whole project without even seeing the model.”