Modernism Through the Viewfinder: The Photography of Ezra Stoller

Stoller's images, which introduced modernism to a broader audience, anchor an exhibit of architectural photography at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

Ezra Stoller’s photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal, Marcel Breuer’s Whitney Museum building, and other marvels of modern architecture have been widely credited with introducing modernism to the masses in the decades after World War II. Now the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh is using a portfolio of Stoller’s photographs that it recently acquired to anchor an exhibit of architectural photography.

The exhibit, “Architecture + Photography,” opened at the museum’s Heinz Architectural Center on April 11 and runs through May 26. It includes a selection of photographs of historic buildings in Charleston, South Carolina, by Frances Benjamin Johnson; selections from a collection of photographs of buildings created by the Carnegie Corporation in the 1920s; and images from the museum’s photography department.

But the centerpiece of the exhibition arguably is the museum’s new portfolio of Stoller photographs. Stoller, who died at 89 in 2004, trained as an architect before turning to photography. Using a large-format camera and shooting almost exclusively in black-and-white, Stoller captured modern buildings at precise angles and in precise lighting—skills that earned him the respect of, and commissions from, some of the leading architects of the modern era.

“I see my work in a way that is analogous to a musician given a score to play who must bring it to life and make the piece as good as it can be,” Stoller was quoted as saying in a brochure for an exhibition of his photographs that was being staged at the Williams College of Art at the time of his death. “While I cannot make a bad building good, I can draw out the strengths in a work that has strength.”

Click through the slideshow to view some of the Stoller photographs that have been included in the Carnegie Museum exhibit.

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