16 July 2009

RIP Julius Shulman 1910 - 2009

Here is an excerpt from the LA Times obituary of legendary photgrapher Julius Shulman who passed away yesterday. In my opinion, Shulman made one of the greatest impacts on Los Angeles architecture and lifestyle (through photography, no less) to date:

Julius Shulman, whose luminous photographs of homes and buildings brought fame to a number of mid-20th century Modernist architects and made him a household name in the architectural world, died Wednesday night. He was 98.

Starting with Richard Neutra in 1936, Shulman's roster of clients read like a who's who of pioneering contemporary architecture: Rudolf M. Schindler, Gregory Ain, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames, Raphael S. Soriano, John Lautner, Eero Saarinen, Albert Frey, Pierre Koenig, Harwell Harris and many others. His work was contained in virtually every book published on Modernist architects.

After the Depression, Shulman's studio was one of three in the U.S. to which Arts & Architecture, Architectural Forum and other magazines turned to document the exciting new work being done in architecture. The others were Ezra Stoller's firm in New York and the Hedrich Blessing firm in Chicago.

Shulman's 1960 photograph of Koenig's Case Study House #22 -- a glass-walled, cantilevered structure hovering above the lights of
Los Angeles, became one of the most famous architectural pictures ever taken in the U.S. It was, as architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote in the New York Times, "one of those singular images that sum up an entire city at a moment in time."

But Shulman's work went well beyond merely taking beautiful pictures of houses and buildings. His mission was to use his photography to build the reputation of the architects who were bringing innovative design to the West. Indeed, his photographs were, by and large, all that most
people would ever see of noted architects' works, many of which were later destroyed.

Shulman's photographs were not without controversy. Some believed he made the structures look too beautiful.

He rearranged furniture to suit his perspective, brought in props and posed models in the frame. Sometimes he used filters or infrared film to make his photos look more dramatic and full of contrast. He also would shoot through cut branches or pots of nursery plants to give the impression that a newly completed home was more fully landscaped.

Shulman was unapologetic about these tactics, saying he wasn't just taking pictures, he was "selling Modernism."

Shulman is survived by a daughter, Judy McKee, and a grandson, Timothy, both of Santa Barbara.

Click here for the complete article.

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