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A Tribute to Ezra Stoller


Images Courtesy ESTO

Renowned architectural photographer Ezra Stoller died on October 29 at his home in Williamstown, Mass., at the age of 89 from complications due to a stroke.

Attending architecture school at New York University as Modernism took hold in the 1930s, Stoller came along just at the right time to become one of the pre-eminent pioneers of Modernist architectural photography. By 1939, he shot the New York World's Fair, creating images that, as in many of his pictures, now commemorate the buildings and even define them in our mind's eye. During an active career that would last until the early 1980s, he photographed many of the remarkable new inventions of the post-War era.

It took a Modernist eye to see Modernist buildings, and Stoller framed views that, in their limpid transparency, always clarified the structures. He did not simply document a building. According to his daughter, Erica Stoller, who runs ESTO, the architectural photo agency her father established in 1966, he said that he didn’t just “take” photographs but “made” them. Using a highly laborious process that involved a car laden with suitcases and ladders, he strategized shoots by mapping views on plans and stalking buildings for optimal sun angles and shadows.

The images often provide the lasting record of a building understood in the way the architect intended, revealed in a chiaroscuro of light and shade that explained its form, spatiality and sensibility. In a way his aesthetic of crisp delineation, often achieved through the sculpting effects of natural light, provoked architects to design for the same effects, so that he affected the designs that he would capture. Great architects-Eero Saarinen, Paul Rudolph, Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Meier-regularly sought out his services. Asked to advise how Stoller should shoot one of his buildings, Frank Lloyd Wright said not to worry, “Ezra will know.”

Joseph Giovannini

 

 

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