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Mourning a visionary behind the lens

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Famed architectural photographer Balthazar Korab stepped onto a ladder and toasted a delegation of Columbus visitors to his farm in 2003.
Famed architectural photographer Balthazar Korab stepped onto a ladder and toasted a delegation of Columbus visitors to his farm in 2003. SUBMITTED PHOTO

World famous photographer Balthazar Korab, credited for his role in helping to put Columbus’ architecture on global maps through his images of the city’s buildings, died Tuesday at his home near Troy, Mich. He was 86.

“When you think in terms of images of Columbus, you think of Balthazar Korab,” said Lynn Lucas, director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center. “He was truly a national figure.”

Korab’s connections with Columbus can be traced to the mid-1950s, when he was serving as an intern in the offices of famed architect Eero Saarinen after escaping from Communist-ruled Hungary.

“He was part of the Saarinen team that worked on the Miller house when it was first built,” Visitors Center staff member Joyce Orwin said about the home of the late J. Irwin and Xenia Miller, which is now a tourist attraction owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “He often told us that he was the one who designed the remarkable fireplace in the home, but we’ve never been able to confirm that.”

Korab returned to the city often in the ensuing years, developing a catalog of images of the city’s contemporary architecture that were used in exhibits and coffee-table books still being sold through the Visitors Center.

“I believe one can grasp the ‘love affair’ that Mr. Korab had with Columbus, Indiana, by reading his book, ‘Columbus, Indiana: An American Landmark,’ and through his interview in the video production, ‘Columbus, Indiana: Different by Design,’” said Anthony Costello, a retired professor of architecture at Ball State University and a longtime supporter of design in Columbus.

“I would submit that Balthazar Korab produced photographs of famous buildings and their immediate landscapes that elevated the viewers’ appreciation of those buildings to the same level of unexpected beauty that Ansel Adams’ photographs did of our country’s great outdoors. I believe that is the highest compliment I could pay any photographer,” Costello said.

Korab staged exhibits of his photographs in Columbus in 1969, 1982, 2000 and 2005, with each exhibit chronicling major works in the city.

“My hope is that seeing one of my photographs will rejuvenate the local people’s enthusiasm and bring back even more appreciation for these buildings,” he said in discussing the 2005 exhibit. “After all, a picture is supposed to speak a thousand words.”

He made no secret of his appreciation of the city and its architecture.

“I must waive all claims to objectivity,” he wrote in “Columbus, Indiana: An American Landmark.”

Korab said: “Many of the people who helped build Columbus are my friends. I have a hopelessly sympathetic bias for this town.”

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