Le Corbusier and the Power of Photography

Overview

A key publication in the literature on Le Corbusier that offers a new perspective on his creative mindThe development of one of the twentieth century’s greatest architects was inextricably connected to the rise of the century’s most popular visual medium: photography. Marking the 125th anniversary of Le Corbusier’s birth, this remarkable publication traces the many ways in which the architect used photography to define and disseminate his work and ideas around the world. Because his buildings are usually shown in...

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Overview

A key publication in the literature on Le Corbusier that offers a new perspective on his creative mindThe development of one of the twentieth century’s greatest architects was inextricably connected to the rise of the century’s most popular visual medium: photography. Marking the 125th anniversary of Le Corbusier’s birth, this remarkable publication traces the many ways in which the architect used photography to define and disseminate his work and ideas around the world. Because his buildings are usually shown in a documentary manner, the candid, personal, artistic, and often unexpected images reproduced here offer new insights and ways to appreciate the many facets of the man behind his works. The topics covered include Le Corbusier’s early experimentation with photography; how he employed photography in promotional materials relating to his buildings and ideas; and his use of large-scale imagery in his buildings and exhibitions. There is also a section devoted to contemporary photographic interpretations of his buildings. With contributions by Norman Foster, Tim Benton, Arthur Ruegg, Veronique Boone, Catherine de Smet, Klaus Spechtenhauser, and Jean-Christophe Blaser.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lauded as one of the founders of modern architecture, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier, was active in a number of other mediums as well, including painting, sculpture, tapestries, and film. Here, editors Herschdorfer and Umstatter focus on the architect’s visual impact, collecting a wide range of photos, film stills, and other ephemera to give readers a greater appreciation of Le Courbusier’s artistic scope and lasting impact on the visual arts and architecture. Six essayists dive deep into specific aspects of Le Courbusier’s work, making the book’s title a bit of a misnomer, as all manner of materials are brought into the discussion. Preparatory sketches, ideas for book layouts, and casual snapshots show an eye for composition that later found their way into his architectural work. Roughly chronological, many of the pieces come together in the book’s two latter chapters, written by art historians Jean-Christophe Blaser and Klaus Spechtenhauser, respectively. Blaser examines Le Courbusier’s lasting influence by showcasing a number of buildings bearing his approach, while Spechtenhauser closes the book with an impressive collection of candid shots that show the human side of the iconic artist. Though the text often veers into the dusty corners of academia, this impressive collection of images and analysis will certainly give readers a deeper appreciation of the man, his work, and his impact on design. (Apr.)
Surface
“Analyzes Corb as a scene-setter, from Chandigarh in India to Villa Savoye in France.”
Aperture
“Encompass[es] the way many ways [Le Corbusier] engaged with photography throughout his lifetime. The graphic design is bright and energetic; there is plenty of text, but it is primarily a book of images.”
Interior Design
“Do we really need another book about [Le Corbusier]? It turns out we do, for this one takes a quite unusual view of the master’s work, examining the close relationship between his architecture and another art form that was developing alongside: photography.”
Elle Decor
“[This book] reveals that the architect was an enthusiastic cameraman himself. . . . Includes a sumptuous portfolio of contemporary images of Le Corbusier’s most famous buildings.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Superb and scholarly.”
Library Journal
In the introduction, editors Herschdorfer (Afterwards: Contemporary Photography Confronting the Past) and Umstätter (chief curator, Musée des Beaux-Arts, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland) note that Le Corbusier "understood the power of photographic language and made every possible use of it." This catalog, linked to an exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, considers the architect's own use of the camera, his collaborations with photographers and filmmakers, the control he exerted over images of himself and his work, photographic murals he designed for some of his interiors, and his architecture in the work of contemporary photographers. An international roster of scholars, curators, and critics contribute to the essays, which are richly illustrated by photographs from the Fondation Le Corbusier, the library at La Chaux-de-Fonds (Corbusier's birthplace), and elsewhere. A "visual biography," a detailed chronology of the architect's life, and a bibliography complete the volume. VERDICT A worthy addition to the scholarship on the iconic architect, this book persuasively portrays Le Corbusier's ability to harness the power of photography to craft the public image of himself and his architecture.—Amy Trendler, Ball State Univ. Libs., Muncie, IN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500544228
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,396,542
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nathalie Herschdorfer is a photography historian and curator. She is the author of Afterwards, and the co-author of Face: The New Photographic Portrait.

Lada Umstätter is chief curator of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

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