This first detailed study focussed on the modern master’s work as a photographer complements what Le Corbusier and the Power of Photography (2012) addressed in a general way.
Tim Benton’s research demonstrates how, in spite of Le Corbusier’s contradictory misgivings about the medium, photography as a tool was not something he held in contempt, at least not in two specific periods of his life. One was between 1906 and 1921, when he took photographs in trips through Europe and the Orient, analyzed now under a new critical perspective. With three different cameras, the over 500 images preserved show an attempt to achieve a degree of professional quality, close to pictorialism, that results from a personal input of time and money.
The purchase in 1936 of a film camera gave rise to a second period of experimentation that lasted three years. A body of work unprecedentedly amounting to 120 film sequences and 6,000 still shots, which Le Corbusier never developed, came close to the new vision of the avant-gardes.
Benton’s exquisite, painstaking research brings us into the architect’s private visual universe and gives us a sampling of the stylistic, aesthetic, and formal attributes of the photographs. Their author’s aura and his command of cameras and skills are irrelevant beside the confirmation, technical mediocrity aside, of the irrefutable capacity of the photographic gaze to serve the architect as an instrument for documentation, biography, analysis, and expression.