It is with great sadness that I learned this morning that Julius Shulman has passed away at the age of 98.
I struggle with finding the right words to describe someone who has done so much for architectural photography. Some say flat out that he invented it, others say that he was the pioneer of commercial photography. All agree that his style and technique was masterful and has shaped the look of architectural photography.
Julius Shulman reportedly started working with Richard Neutra in 1936 and added an impressive list of the who is who in architecture to his client list. Rudolf M. Schindler, Gregory Ain, Frank Lloyd Wrigth, Charles Eames, John Lautner, Albert Frey, Pierre Koenig are amongst some of the recognizable names who retained his services.
In January 2008 I attended an exhibition of the Getty Research Institute in conjunction with the Los Angeles Public Library in the Getty Gallery which featured 150 images. I was lucky as this event was facilitated by the ASPP and we had our own private tour with the co-curator of the exhibit Christopher James Alexander. We were let in by him into a few secrets as he led us through the show. One of which was that many of the ‘trees’ and ‘shrubs’ that were in the foreground of Julius Shulman’s images were put there by him to hide ghastly telephone polls or electrical lines.
Shulman was a stealth supporter of Los Angeles and California in general. He viewed it as his job to make things look as good as they possibly good. His images are to this day synonymous with an area – the modern architecture of the 6oties (not to be confused with contemporary architecture).His probably most famous image is Koeing’s Case Study No. 22. A bit of trivia for you here, this property is it is one of the few houses that is still occupied by the original owners and to this day looks exactly like it is. It is a very widely used location for fashion and celebrity photographers and listed with most of the major location services. Also included is an image of the famous Kaufman house in Palm Springs. Both images are from Julius Shulman and courtesy of The J. Paul Getty Trust. This house has been up for sale for a while for the bargain asking price of $22 mil (last time I checked it had not sold and I could not find an update). That house had gone into terrible disarray but had been purchased by a couple in the nineties. They went so far as to put ads in the paper in Palm Springs and asked residents to come forward if they obtained any items from the original house in a yard sale and in any condition. The house and furniture was painstakingly restored. I was lucky and produced a few photoshoots in this home and the house is simply amazing. The scoop is to be read here, note the image is from Tim Street Porter who was one of the staples of my architectural stock syndication Beateworks.
Julius Shulman will be sorely missed in our photographic community. How can you be anything but in awe of a pioneer who kept active until his 90ties! If you want to have a piece of Julius Shulman – check with the Getty Museum for exhibits and my personal favorite, treat yourself to this book.
The Getty Museum acquired the life works of Julius Shulman and they are in excellent hands there. It contains over 260,000 negatives, vintage and modern prints. The Shulman archive is also open for research. Details here.
Watch this beautiful video of publisher Benedikt Taschen speaking with Julius Shulman here.
Here is an article from the LA Times from July 17th.
Remembering Julius Shulman from The Best of NY Times.
Please read more here: The Getty: Julius Shulman, Modernity and the Metropolis