Joseph W. Molitor (1907-1996)

The Joseph W. Molitor Photograph Collection, 1935-1985 (bulk 1946-1980), was purchased by Avery Library in 1996, with funding from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and from private donors.


Joseph Molitor, recognized as a peer of such leading 20th-century American architectural photographers as Hedrich-Blessing, Balthazar Korab, Julius Shulman, and Ezra Stoller, 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, Molitor's images appeared in Architectural Record, The New York Times, House & Home, and other national and international publications. His iconic photograph of a walkway at architect Paul Rudolph’s high school in Sarasota, Florida, won first place in the black and white section of the American Institute of Architects’ architectural photography awards in 1960. He served several terms as president of the Architectural Photographers Association and published Architectural Photography in 1976, a guide to photographing the built environment that included many examples of his own work. Molitor retired from practice in the mid-1980s.


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 commissioned 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.

The inventory linked above records the project name, client name, and dates of photography from Molitor's job book, which appears to be a remarkably accurate list of the negatives and prints held in the archive. Please note that Molitor photographed most buildings shortly after completion, although photographs contracted for publication may postdate the building's completion by several years. The inventory was prepared for electronic publication by Lou Di Gennaro and Julie Tozer, assistants to the Curator of Drawings & Archives.

Among the architects and firms represented in the collection are A. Epstein & Sons; Warren Ashley; Edward Larrabee Barnes; Welton Becket; Pietro Belluschi; Bentel & Bentel; Bohlin & Powell; Marcel Breuer; Carson & Lundin/Carson, Lundin & Shaw; Eero Saarinen & Associates; Eggers & Higgins; Freeman, French & Freeman; Frederick G. Frost, Jr. & Associates; Greenman & Pedersen; Alonzo J. Harriman; Harrison & Abramovitz; E. H. & M. K. Hunter; IBM; Philip Johnson; Louis Kahn; A. M. Kinney; Carl Koch; William Lescaze; Edward Loewenstein; Luckman Associates; Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle & Wolff; George Matsumoto; New York Telephone Company; Eliot Noyes; O'Brien & Gere; Odell Associates; I. M. Pei; Perkins & Will; Pittsburgh Plate Glass; RTKL Associates; Paul Rudolph; S. S. Silver & Company; Sargent, Webster, Crenshaw & Folley; Sherwood, Mills & Smith; Shreve, Lamb & Harmon; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; G. Milton Small; Hugh Stubbins; The Architects Collaborative [TAC]; U.S. Gypsum; Warner, Burns, Toan & Lunde; and Minoru Yamasaki.