Shulman Inspired, California Desired

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

Singleton House, Los Angeles, 1960 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph, Architect

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

Miller House, Palm Springs, 1937-41 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph , Architect

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.

University of California, Irvine, 1968 ~ William L. Pereira Associates , Architect

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

Shulman House, Los Angeles, 1951 ~ Soriano, Raphael, Architect

Shulman House – another perspective

Julius Shulman’s Home designed by Raphael Soriano, 1951. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

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.

Hensman House, Los Angeles, 1976

AISI "Style in Steel Home", Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

AISI “Style in Steel Home”, Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

Franks House, Los Angeles, 1968 ~ Farber, Rick, Architect

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

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.

Julius Shulman and architect Richard Neutra at the Tremaine House, Los Angeles, 1947

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.

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Shrine Civic Auditorium (Los Angeles, 1975 ~ Adelman, Abraham A. , Lansburgh, G. Albert, Austin, John C. W. – Architects

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.

Case Study 22 ~ Koenig, Pierre, Architect

“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.

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Charles Ennis

Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1953-68 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Ennis Interior

Ennis House, Interior ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Storer House, Los Angeles, 1985 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

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

Malin House “Chemosphere”, Los Angeles, 1961 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Burgess House, PalmSprings, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Burgess House, Palm Springs, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Silvertop, Los Angeles, 1980 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, 1966 ~ Yamasaki, Minoru, Architect

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

Mobil Gas Station, Smith and Williams, Anaheim, 1956. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

Johnny’s, Los Angeles, 1956

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1965 ~ William L. Pereira and Associates, Architect

Town & Country Restaurant, Palm Springs, 1949 ~ Jones, A. Quincy, Williams, Paul R., Architect

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.

Blue Jay House, Los Angeles • Zoltan Pali, Architect. © Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai

Disney Hall, Los Angeles, Frank Gehry, Architect. Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai

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.

Robert L. Frost Memorial Auditorium, Culver City, 1963

San Diego Stadium, 1967 ~ Frank L. Hope & Associates, Architect

Stuart Pharmaceuticals, Pasadena, 1958 ~ Stone, Edward Durell, Architect

Looking Over Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles From Mount Hollywood, 1936. (© Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

* **


65 thoughts on “Shulman Inspired, California Desired

    • My pleasure Roger. Shulman’s photos are so inspiring, and they really are quite mystical. His soul lives on through the photos, which are also a visual reminder of the work of some excellent architects. I’m looking forward to seeing those prints, in reality. Thanks!

  1. Amazing photographs. Thank you so much Marina for sharing these here and introducing me to the work of Julius Schulman. Although I’m sure I will have seen his photographs many times before in various publications down the years, I now have an idea of the man behind them. Great post!

    • My pleasure Adrian, I am glad you liked the post. I think it is a treat to learn about someone who stumbled into photography, and through depth of spirit and soul, created such influential images. To me, that’s what it is all about. Nothing compares to putting your heart and soul into work, does it? Thanks!

    • Thanks Val, I am glad you enjoyed it. Shulman really is inspiring – I agree. His soul shows through his work, and that speaks volumes. I’m looking forward to learning more about his work.

  2. Smart title!!! Great article! He has a fabulous perspective on such unique architecture. You did a wonderful job of depicting it!

    • Exactly Jenny – beautiful simplicity; images that breathe life. That’s what I like most about the photos. Watching the documentary, you can’t help wishing that you had met Shulman; learned about how he views the world. He’s definitely a wonderful inspiration. Thanks!

  3. Oh Marina, this kind of stuff just feeds my soul as you know! Absolutely love this.
    Amazing buildings, amazing photography, amazing man…
    It’s wonderful the way you have woven it all together, thank you!

    • I am so glad you liked it Karen -thanks for your comment! There are many more wonderful photos to appreciate – I am planning a visit to The Getty to see them now. So inspired! Thanks!

  4. You’ve done it again, Marina! What a great post. The photographs are stunning. You even included one of my university – UC Irvine. I didn’t know you lived in So Cal for a while. Where?


    • Thanks Daisy, for taking a look! The photos are so enjoyable to look at as they have ‘life’ in them. I lived in San Clemente and LA over 2+ years. I am a fan of the weather and these days, greenery and space!

  5. It’s hard to believe that photography was so effective in the age before digital 🙂 I seem to forget that until I look at ‘old’ photos such as these and am blown away by the sheer artistic ability. These people were seriously talented. Thanks for the reminder!

    • I was thinking the same thing, especially when comparing the colour photos towards the end of the post – those Shulman collaborated on with Nogai. And many of those Shulman photos were scanned prints! It’s so inspiring – if you have time, you should take a look at the documentary. thanks!

  6. Great post, so much quality photography here 🙂 I love that kind of architecture, simple and functional. I especially like the Franks house by Farber Rick it’s so cute 🙂 I’d love to have a house like this and the views must be breathtaking 🙂

    I also love the quote: Life is good. Life can be beautiful. What more can I ask? Very nicely said 😀

    • Thanks so much Kristina! I am so glad you enjoyed it. I also love the modern lines of this architecture, with so many windows. Franks House looks so European doesn’t it? Very Swiss inspired! Shulman said that quote when he was accepting his Doctorate, and he was so teared up. It really was a nice moment to witness in the documentary. If you have time to view it, I recommend it! PS I would love to live in any of those houses too!

      • I will have to watch it 🙂
        All these houses with those large windows must be so light inside in a day time, I can imagine being inside on a sunny day… You are right, any of those houses would be more than enough to live in 😀

  7. What an amazing set of images, Marina! Thanks for finding them and for sharing! I often wonder if mid-century Californian modernism would ever have become so famous were it not for the likes of Shulman. Or perhaps it is the other way around? Only the chicken and the egg know! 😉

    • My pleasure Ray, I could study them for hours 🙂 I guess if it were to happen, it would have eventually happened. And I’m glad it did. Thanks again for referring me to the documentary. It made the weekend so good!

  8. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of effort and thought you put into each post, the details, the research, the insight you provide into every single photo, accompanying the words that you choose so carefully to tailor a great read – post aside, you’re inspiring!

    • This comment has made my Tuesday! Thank you for it – so so nice to read. I do enjoy pulling posts like this together as the experience is two-fold: I learn, and I stitch a puzzle together. I am glad you enjoyed this post and I hope Shulman + CA gave you inspiration! Thanks again 🙂

  9. Your post is a wonderful introduction to Julius’ amazing body of work. I got to know him very well and he was truly extraordinary — an optimism that never ceased which was so profoundly expressed in his work. He brought life into architecture and that is what makes his work transcend the mere documentary.

    Michael Stern
    Julius Shulman: Palm Springs (Rizzoli, 2008)

    • Michael, what a pleasure to read from you. It really was so interesting to research Julius Shulman and his work, and now to hear from someone who had met him. I absolutely agree – for me, the documentary was a good introduction to the man behind the photos, that breathe life. They are soulful. Thank you for your comment. Amazing!

  10. I don’t know where you find the time, energy and motivation to write and compile these wonderful posts. I am so glad you do because it means I learn so much about things that might never have passed my way.
    Thank you so much for the thought and effort you put in all the time. You are an inspiration to all of us…..

    • Brendan, you are way too kind to say that! If it is any consolation, I really enjoy compiling the information and am happy that someone else may gain something from a post – whether its a laugh or learning about a new artist. if you have time to watch the Visual Acoustics documentary, I recommend it. It really was heartwarming watching Shulman – he worked well into his nineties and never wavered from his talent. Thanks so much!

  11. I had the great pleasure as a very little girl to spend time at the Shulman home, with his family during the 60’s through the mid seventies. My grandmother was their live-in house housekeeper. He took numerous photographs of my family at his home studio. I have very fond memories of him, his wife and Judy. He always made sure I didn’t go outside alone, due to the cougars lerking about. He was not only a amazing photographer, he was also a great man.

    • Daffney,what wonderful memories you must have of those experiences and moments. From seeing Julius Shulman in this documentary, his soul shines through; I was inspired after watching him interact, and describe his work/life and passion. Thank you so much for your comment.

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    • My pleasure, so happy you found my post of Shulman 🙂 Thankfully, we have the Internet. But maybe the book will go down in price… or you could buy it used somewhere in Manhattan or Brooklyn? I’ll keep an eye out 🙂

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