Steve Szabo, 59, a former Washington Post photographer who taught at the Corcoran School of Art and won critical acclaim for his poignant, evocative pictures of the Eastern Shore, died at his Washington home May 18. He had multiple sclerosis.
Mr. Szabo was a prize-winning photographer at The Post before he quit the news business in the 1970s and moved to a 19th-century farmhouse in Somerset County, Md. There, he began photographing abandoned, half-sunk boats, graying houses and the patterns on the water, using an old-fashioned view camera that produced 8-by-10-inch negatives.
The resulting prints, made on rag-content paper that was coated with platinum emulsion, were highly detailed and free of the graininess of enlargements, and had a feeling of timeless happenstance.
Consequently, one reviewer wrote in The Post: "A boat at rest on the bay takes on the quality of a watercolor. A house framed behind a pond brings to mind the oils of Andrew Wyeth. A tree in the forest assumes some of the aspects of a fine engraving."
The Eastern Shore photographs were published as a book and exhibited at the University of Maryland, the Corcoran Gallery and the Phillips Collection. Mr. Szabo's work also constituted the first big project undertaken at the Washington photography gallery of Kathleen Ewing, who was to become Mr. Szabo's companion.
Later exhibits were of his photos of nature and life at the beach, for which he won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Other series were of urban and rural landscapes around the world, including a striking collection of photos documenting the custom in Nebraska of upending worn cowboy boots on fence posts.
His still lives were not simple studies of flowers, Post art critic Paul Richard wrote, but rather dense tangles of branches, twigs and tendrils that reminded the viewer of Jackson Pollock paintings.
"His crowded beach scenes, too, are pictures full of incidents," Richard wrote in 1986. Mr. Szabo's photographs of his ancestral Hungary, with their images of passers-by, storefronts, graves and ads, evoked the pictures of Walker Evans, Richard said.
Mr. Szabo was a native of Berwick, Pa., who attended Pennsylvania State University and the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles. He worked in steel mills as a young man.
He began at The Post in 1962 as a part-time photography lab assistant. As a staff photographer from 1966 to 1972, he won awards that included the top prize for feature photography from the White House News Photographers Association.
Hi work is included in collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Library of Congress, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., the National Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and other institutions. He also exhibited and taught in Europe.
Away from the camera, Mr. Szabo was a fiercely competitive darts player who participated in the bar-sponsored Washington Area Darts Association tournaments. He taught and served periodically as chairman of the photography department at the Corcoran until forced by his illness to retire in the mid-1990s.
In addition to Kathleen Ewing, of Washington, survivors include his mother, Mary Szabo of Dunedin, Fla., and a brother.