Friday, July 17, 2009

Goodbye Julius Shulman...

Iconic architectural photographer Julius Shulman passed away this week at the age of 98. He was best known for his modernist photographs and his passion to bring to light the beauty of up and coming architectural minds. He photographed the works of Richard Neutra, Rudolf M. Schindler, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames, Albert Frey and John Lautner among many others. Photos from Los Angeles Times.

Shulman was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1910 to Russian immigrant parents who quickly moved to a farm outside of Connecticut where he discovered his love of light and nature. At ten years old, the family moved to Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where his father opened a Dry Goods store in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Three years later, his father died of tuberculosis and Julius was left to run the shop and look after his mother and five younger siblings. He graduated from Roosevelt High School, where he took his only course in photography, and spent seven years academically drifting between courses at UCLA and UC Berkeley. He was earning a little bit of money for some landscape photographs he had taken but still unsure of what he wanted to do with his life when he returned to Los Angeles. He had a chance meeting with Richard Neutra in 1936 that would open the door to architectural photography. A draftsman for Neutra was an acquaintance of Shulman's sister and he took him to see one of Neutra's houses. Shulman was intrigued by modernism and took some photographs and sent them to Neutra via the draftsman. Neutra invited Shulman to take some more photos and their professional relationship and friendship developed along with Shulman's new found passion. Shulman left Los Angeles and spent two years in the army taking photographs in World War II to return to the booming Case Study housing influx. He would spend the rest of his life capturing the essence of modernism and architectural splendor.

Most famous for this particular photo, the Stahl House was shot by Shulman on May 9, 1960 just as the sun was setting. This photograph has been published more times than anyone can probably count, but it's the essence of Shulman that shines through in this photo. Capturing everyday life in a casual way using light and strong horizontal patterns. His photos began selling at $5 each and today fetch up to $20,000.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shulman a few years ago at an event at the Neutra House in Silverlake and he was every bit as charming as he was engaging. He approached a co-worker and myself and asked us if we were enjoying our martinis. He was articulate and exuded intelligence but warm and funny at the same time. RIP Julius Shulman.

1 comment:

The Townhouselady said...

What a beautiful post Lucinda!