Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Joseph W. Molitor architectural photographs, 1935-1985 (bulk 1946-1980) 

Molitor, Joseph W.
Phys. Desc: 
approx. 22,000 photonegatives; approx. 10,600 photoprints
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

Joseph W. Molitor, recognized as a peer of such leading 20th-century American architectural photographers as Ezra Stoller, Hedrich-Blessing, George Cserna, Julius Schulman, and Balthazar Korab, documented the work of regional and national architects for fifty years. Trained as an architect, he practiced for twelve years before briefly working in advertising. Molitor turned exclusively to architectural photography in the late 1940s, maintaining his studio in suburban Westchester County, New York. Working primarily in black and white, his images appeared in Architectural Record, the New York Times, House & Home, and other national and international publications. Molitor's iconic image of a walkway at architect Paul Rudolph's high school in Sarasota, Florida, won first place in the black and white category of the American Institute of Architects' architectural photography awards in 1960. He also served several terms as president of the Architectural Photographers Association, and published a guide to photographing the built environment, titled Architectural Photography, which included many examples of his own work. Molitor retired from practice in the mid-1980s.

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection consists of more than 22,000 black and white photographic negatives and more than 10,600 black and white photographic prints documenting commercial, institutional, religious, and residential architecture throughout the United States, with particular emphasis on sites in the mid-Atlantic region. These images date from the mid-1930s to Molitor's retirement in the mid-1980s, with the great majority of images created between 1946 and 1980. Also included in the collection are images of landscapes, industrial design, portraits, and events of personal significance to Molitor. In some select cases, color prints, color negatives, color transparencies, and 35mm slides are also available in addition to or instead of the black and white negatives and prints. Researchers are also advised that documents in this collection indicate that when faced with a lack of storage space in 1973, Molitor contacted clients to return inactive negatives that they had comissioned before 1955. In at least some cases, those clients declined to accept their negatives and Molitor subsequently destroyed the images. Thus, this collection has lacunae in the negatives series.