I think it’s just a beautiful way of thinking of my dad and Los Angeles as siblings. They really did grow up together. ~ Judy McKee, daughter of Julius Shulman
Shulman’s pictures have this base of romance to them. His work represents a certain ideal that happened years ago. ~ Ed Ruscha, artist
History is strange. Here, it becomes mystical. ~ Julius Shulman on Los Angeles
Within 24 hours I garnered a greater appreciation for Californian architecture than ever before thanks to the works of a leading 20th century photographer, the late Julius Schulman (1910-2009).
This happened while watching the 90-minute documentary, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman, and afterwards, researching what I had seen. I appreciate that fellow bloggers, All About Travel and The Way I See It recommended I see the film (in response to my Vintage Inspired California post).
I was ordained to become a photographer, I was destined... ~ Julius Shulman
Director and producer Eric Bricker does an excellent job of giving us a glimpse into Mr. Shulman’s life. Filmed in his mid nineties, Shulman comes across as a man of quick wit, a man who loves life and Los Angeles, a man who was passionate about his craft.
Life is good. Life can be beautiful. What more can I ask? ~ Schulman said after receiving his Honorary degree from Westbury University, CA, at 90-something years of age.
The film introduces us to Shulman in his home, located high in the Hollywood Hills. We hear Shulman’s personal recollections, witness his handover of assets to the Getty Center, see him honoured with a Doctorate of Architecture. As I watched the film, I wondered why I hadn’t researched his work earlier. I wish I had met him.
The whole story of my life will now be transposed to Mr. Getty’s Hall ~ Julius Shulman
Having lived in Southern California for a couple of years, I was drawn to Los Angeles’ modernist architecture, which Shulman so beautifully photographed — photographs that made him the “most important architectural photographer in history,” gallery owner Craig Krull has said.
Craig Krull once exhibited Shulman’s photographs in an art show – he believed Shulman elevated commercial architectural photography to fine art – and was instrumental in selecting The Getty Research Institute as the archive for Shulman’s works.
In 1936, returning to L.A. after a dismal seven-year stint at the University of California, Berkeley, Shulman accompanied a draftsman to the Kun Residence of modernist architect Richard Neutra. Shulman took six photographs of the under-construction home with a Kodak Vest Pocket 127-format camera. Neutra liked the photos so much that he asked Shulman to photograph more of his houses.
“March 5, 1936 — I remember the day — we shook hands for the first time,” Shulman said in an LA Times interview. “I met Richard Neutra, and that was the day I became a photographer.”*
Dropping out of UC Berkeley had set him on a new path.
The modernist designs of legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, visionary John Lautner, and Neutra, provided Shulman with photogenic subjects.
His work will survive me. Film is stronger and good glossy prints are easier to ship than brute concrete, stainless steel, or even ideas ~ Richard Neutra
LIFE and Arts and Architecture magazines used Schulman’s photographs to elevate LA’s status as a progressive city.
Shulman became an invaluable contributor to the burgeoning architectural movement, not only as a correspondent, but as talent scout and respected tastemaker as well ~ Dustin Hoffman narrated in Visual Acoustics.
Arts and Architecture Magazine ran an unprecedented experiment called the The Case Study House Program, an initiative spearheading the design of efficient homes for the typical Post WWII family. (That is, function vs. form). Shulman’s photograph of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study 22, below, was described as one of the ‘most evocative images of 20th Century architecture’. See my Vintage Inspired California post for more examples from this program.
“Your pictures are incredible for an amateur and better than most professionals,” Frank LLoyd Wright wrote in a note to Shulman after he’d photographed one of his designs.
You may recognise some of the interiors, below, from the movie, Bladerunner.
The essence of a Julius Shulman photograph comes from his artful composition of interiors from a one-point perspective, so that “the modern (would) unfold in a beautiful way.”
Somehow he’s able to put so much of himself into the vantage point that you feel his presence in the room even if he’s not in the frame ~ Tom Ford, designer
Ultimately though, it was Shulman’s spirit, attitude, and sense of humour that made him a success. In response to a question about the enjoyment and passion he exhibited for his photographic work, he replied, “Yes (I enjoy my work) – what else is there?”
I have this vision of him wandering around, whether it’s in the hills or in the town, seeking the world through his camera ~ Judy McKee describing Shulman’s jaunts around Los Angeles
Shulman was always in command of his 70-year career.
“I control what I call, the visual acoustics,” he said after a slight disagreement with his photographer associate, Juergen Nogai, while photographing Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. NB: Schulman helped Gehry land his first client.
Together, Nogai and Shulman photographed close to 200 houses.
Shulman’s spirit lives on at Getty Center, whose archive includes 260,000 of the phootgrapher’s negatives, transparencies and prints; through book publishers such as TASCHEN; and at Westbury University in Burbank’s Julius Shulman Institute, which promotes the built environment through photography.**
Shulman remained a faithful steward to the modernist ideal. Ultimately, his vast photographic archives would become an indispensable resource as public taste later turned enthusiastically back to modernism.~ Visual Acoustics
Shulman’s archives serve as a long-lasting, tangible reminder of the 20th-Century modernist movement and LA’s development as a city.
* http://www.latimes.com/features/ **http://architecture.woodbury.edu