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Julius Shulman

California Dreaming

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Julius Shulman

American photographer Julius Shulman’s (1910–2009) images of Californian buildings have burned themselves into the retina of the 20th century so deeply that a book on modern architecture without Shulman is inconceivable. His photographs elevated the Californian mid century modernism found in places like Palm Springs, to the level of myth. In 1936 Shulman was enlisted by a friend, working as a draftsman for Richard Neutra, to take photographs of a new Kun Residence in Hollywood with his amateur Kodak Vest Pocket camera. When Neutra saw the pictures, he asked to meet the photographer and proceeded to give him his first assignments. Soon Shulman opened a studio in Los Angeles and launched his career, working mostly for New York based magazines.

Many of his architectural photographs, like the iconic shots of Frank Lloyd Wright’s or Pierre Koenig’s remarkable structures, continue to be published. His images of the Stahl House for example, have become iconic. Shulman’s photography was the first to shed light on the brilliance of architects like Charles Eames. TASCHEN books on modern design include countless images by Shulman and a number of photography books also select Shulman’s best images, compiling them into comprehensive monographs like Modernism Rediscovered. His work is imbued with such clarity that it can be attributed with defining architectural photography as a category of its own.

Each Shulman photograph unites perception and understanding of the building with its place in the landscape. The compositions reveal not just the architectural ideas behind the surface, but also the visions of the larger project of modernism, including new ideas about domestic living. A great many of the residences and erections documented by Shulman have been demolished or re-purposed over time. The Getty Research Institute in LA has archived, preserved and exhibited his images, contributing to the increasing popularity and consumption of his work.