Ezra Stoller, Architect-Photographer, 1915–2004

Ezra Stoller, the architectural photographer who captured and shared with architects and the public alike the life force of the Modern Movement in crisp black-and-white, died October 29 at his home in Williamstown, Mass., following complications of a stroke.

Born in Chicago on May 16, 1915, Stoller earned his bachelor's degree in 1938 from the School of Architecture and Allied Arts at New York University. During World War II, he taught photography at the Army Signal Corps Photo Center in New York City. Two decades later, Stoller founded Esto Photographics, the agency that has become one of the profession’s best known and most respected houses of photography.

A photo of the solar telescope at Kitt Peak, Ariz., shows Stollerís mastery of presentation of scale. Photo © Ezra Stoller/ESTO Photographics.It was Stoller’s architect’s eye and discipline that moved him to capture on film the structure and spirit, body and soul of the icons of Modern architecture, from the Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute in La Jolla to Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal in New York and close to all of the great postwar buildings in between. Often, the image we carry in our mind’s eye of any particular great building was first seen through a lens by Ezra Stoller. He managed, in a career that spanned more than five decades, to capture not only the architecture, but also the times and culture embodied in each piece of work. His photos continue to be featured in countless books and magazine articles, and in art exhibitions worldwide.

The breadth and clarity of Stoller’s oeuvre is perhaps most beautifully captured in Modern Architecture: Photographs by Ezra Stoller (Harry N. Abrams, 1990, ISBN 810938162), which features 400 of his most important works, along with his writing about the pictures, the buildings, and the architects who designed them. In the book, commentator William S. Saunders concluded, “Stoller’s own strengths as a working photographer, devoting himself for half a century with fervor and vigor, to the achievements of others and thereby, through the very rejection of self importance, to our surprise an indebtedness, the chief enabler of our experiences of Modern architecture.”

Stoller captured beautifully the essence of flight embodied in Eero Saarinenís TWA Terminal at Idlewild (now JFK International) in Queens, N.Y. Photo © Ezra Stoller/ESTO Photographics.Stoller received the AIA Gold Medal for Photography in 1961; he was this prestigious award’s first recipient. And his legacy lives on in his work, as well as in “Ezra Stoller: 50 Photos,” an exhibition of his work on display now through December 19 at the Williams College Museum of Art in his hometown. His daughter, Erica Stoller, continues the legacy as director of ESTO Photographics in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

In addition to Erica, Stoller is survived by his wife, Helen; his brother, Claude Stoller, FAIA; two sons; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.


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