The Skilfullness of a Great Man - Julius Shulman

Shulman- the photographer, the intuitive artist and the outspoken critic is the living embodiment of the great social vision of modernism: by mobilizing volumes of industrial materials such as glass and steel, we will free the soul and spirit from enclosure and open our lives to the harmony of the natural world -
Philip J. Ethington, University of Southern California

With love and great respect, I had been compiling pictures and the history of one of our centuries most talented and most published photographers, Julius Shulman. My project had not yet been completed when I read the news last Wednesday, June the 15th, that Mr. Shulman had passed at the age of 98. No, I had never met the man; his death however felt like that of a Uncle or a dear friend. His photographic genius had inspired me, captured my imagination and fueled my love of modern design. He possessed a skill to be able to blur the lines between landscape and architecture. Like that of meeting royalty, my desire to see and speak with Mr. Shulman will remain only a dream.

Fellow photographer and a collaborator Juergen Nogai once said, "That streak- the free soul within the unpretentious, practical product of the immigrant experience - produced a seldom personality; a Jewish farm boy who grew up to create internationally recognized American cultural artifacts - icons that continue to influence our fantasies and self-perceptions'.

Shulman was a product of his upbringing and influenced by his era and his surroundings. In a society with many vehicles for self-promotion, I wonder if Shulman would of approved? I believe the day of self-made, hard working men & woman of the 21st century will be harder to come bye.

effect- Shulman lived as a child on a rustic Connecticut farm with his Jewish immigrant parents.
*result - Shulman developed his love & admiration of living close to nature.
effect - At the age of 10, the Shulman family moved to Los Angeles. His parents owned & operated a clothing store in a Jewish community. The whole family worked in the family store. "They were business people", he would say, "I was in the Boy Scouts".
*result - Shulman was proud of his lighting abilities." Most likely learned from his love of nature. "I was a Boy Scout", he'd say, " I know where the sun is every month of the year. And I never use a meter".
effect - Shulman graduated from high school where he took his one & only photography class
*result - He spent 7 yrs. attending University @ UCLA & UC Berkeley (career student).
effect -Began earning rent money at Berkeley from pictures taken with a Eastman box camera. Always optimistic of his abilities to do anything.
*result - It's 1936; Shulman's sister rented a room to a draftsman who worked for Architect Richard Neutra.
effect - That draftsman invited Shulman to see Neutra's Kun house while under construction. By habit Shulman carried a vest-pocket camera given to him by his sister & not having ever seen a modern house before, took a series of snap-shots.
*result - These photos ended up in the hands of Neutra who purchased them & asked Shulman to work on other projects. On that fateful March day in 1936, Shulman became a architectural photographer. As he said, "why not".
effect - Neutra & Shulman's relationship lasted 34 years upon Neutra's death in 1970. Through Neutra, Shulman met, collaborated with, & be-friended a 'who's who' of architects.
*result - He later told the NY Times in 1994, that "I was lucky to be doing the right thing at the right place at the right time".
effect - Shulman was known for "dressing the set", (today's terms; staging/styling) not only by moving furniture but by adding everyday objects and accessories. He was known for even putting homeowners to work posing in photographs. Common place today, but virtually unique 50 years ago
*result - Controversy erupted; some believed he made structures look 'too beautiful'. Shulman was unapologetic about his tactics, saying he wasn't just taking pictures, he was "selling modernism".
effect - As the sun set on May 9 1960, Shulman photographed Koenig's Case Study House No. 22 built for the Buck Stahl family in the Hollywood Hills.
*result - The effect resulted in work that would secure Shulman's reputation and produce one of the most widely recognized images of modern architecture. NY times' Paul Goldberger wrote, "one of those singular images that sum up an entire city at a moment in time" Hollywood gorgeous and casual; a snapshot of the good life that embodied all that was hopeful, optimistic and glamorous of post-war America.
effect - Shulman was a man of humor and warmth, who was aware of his greatness. .
*result - "I sell architecture better and more directly and more vividly that the architect does". When asked if he was pleased with his photographs, he replied, "I am pleased with all my work". "If I were modest, I wouldn't talk about how great I am", he'd tell people at his lectures."Architects don't see what I see. It's God-given, a mitzvah".
effect - "The reason why this (modern) architecture photographs so beautifully is the environmental consideration exercised by the architects. It was the sense that here we have beautiful canyons, hillsides, views of the ocean".
*result - Shulman speaking to Metropolismag.com's Paul Makosvsky in 2007 said, "We've always had green - those of us who are concerned with the environment. So why should we suddenly discover that green is good?" When asked why Koenig never talked about his architecture as sustainable, Shulman says, "In the fifties and sixties it was done automatically. The term green meant you related to the environment. That's all green means: you are the environment."
effect - When asked how well his life had turned out, he answered, "I have always observed and respected my destiny. That's the only way I can describe it. It was meant to be".
*result - "We’re involved in architecture from birth to death. You’re born in a hospital most likely designed by an architect. But then when you die: mortuary, designed by an architect. That’s the story of architecture". - Julius Shulman

the 1936 Kun House by architect Pierre Koenig - Shulman's launching pad for
his architecture photographic career

Shulman in the act shooting what would be one of architectures most published photo - Case Study House #22 by Pierre Koenig for the Stahl Family in the Hollywood Hills.

Shulman staged & hired two young women to pose in the then unoccupied home. The two women, the Stahl's, Shulman & the widow of Koenig reunited one last time in 2008. Read about their reunion here.

Visual Acoustics - documentary film about Julius Shulman by Eric Bricker & narrated by Dustin Hoffman. To be released in theatres across the U.S. in Oct. 2009. Read more here.

Case Study House #20, Altadena, California

Allen Cabin - Palm Springs

Palm Spring's Albert Frey Residence 1965

1947 photo of a Richard Neutra-designed residence the Kaufmann House, in Palm Springs.

Shulman & German photographer Juergen Nogai - hired to shoot the Kaufmann house prior
to it going on the auction block May 13, 2008. Shulman & Nogai collaberated on aprox.
70 projects until Shulman was in his late 90's.

Twin Palm's House 1957 - Palm Springs

Pierre Koenig's Case House Study #21 - 1956 Los Angeles

Case Study House #21

Albert Frey, Loewy House, Palm Springs, California

Anaheim Mobile Gas Station - 1956

Bonini Residence #1 (1950), La Cañada, photo by Julius Shulman

Chuey Residence

Robert Skinner, Skinner House, Beverly Hills, California

Albert Frey, Frey House, Palm Springs, California

John Lautner's architectural masterpiece built in 1968 for interior designer
Arthur Elrod on Southridge Drive in Palm Springs.

Pierre Koenig's Case Study House No. 21 in Los Angeles, 1958-1959 In original photo, Shulman captured Koenig coming home from work & putting on a record on the photograph while his wife relaxed.

Jolie/Pitt reincactment of that historic photo taken by
photographer Stephen Klein for W Magazine

Dear Mr. Shulman; You lived a long life yet it was still too soon for you to depart.
I picture you capturing the heavens in film unlike anyone could. You will be deeply missed. -
Deborah Peterson Milne

"Julius was a walking billboard for a life well-lived"
"His photographs are so redolent of the era in which they were built you can practically
hear the Sinatra tunes wafting in the air and the ice clinking in the cocktail glasses."
"Shulman discovers the indelible image, documenting not just a time and place, but an essence".

{go forth & live responsibly}
celebrate the genius

research material thanks to; Los Angeles Times, Dwell Magazine, LAmag.com, Tuschen books, Palm Spring Museum, metropolismag.com, Juliasfilm.com, J.Paul Getty Trust, designpublic.com, artsjournal.com & wikipedia.com

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The Townhouselady said...

Your post is simply incredible. I was not familiar with his work until his passing. I've read a few things recently but nothing like your post.

What an incredible compilation.

Absolutely wonderful.

debra@dustjacket said...

Oh what a terrific tribute to such an immensely talented gentleman.

I really enjoyed looking over the different images and loved the era they represent.

I didn't realise the history behind the pitt/jolie shoot, which I loved.

Thanks so much for that.xxx

ps with comment re drew: she lost years of her photography work in a house fire a few years back, she said that was just so heartbreaking.

Unknown said...

What a fabulous bunch of images!

LenoreNeverM♡re said...

Have always admire the Kaufmann house. Love this post...definitely learn new things everyday~ Thank you!

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Stunning!!! Such amazing photos. The 1947 b&w Kaufmann House is another world.. actually there is no point picking individual favourites they are all amazing! These images need to be lingered over.. I will have to come back again and again. The skinner house with the child out front is very interesting.. presents a mood of detachment.. perhaps mother is having her cocktail!! Fabulous post and tribute to a great artist! [ps I do still have a tv just no green.. greenless le tour when they bother to air it!! arrrrggghh. hehe] Julie

Couture Carrie said...

Fabulous post ~ informative and lovely tribute and stunning photos! Especially enjoyed the ones of FLW's Kaufmann house!


annechovie said...

Terrific post, Deb! Very thorough and informative. Thanks for the sweet comment and hope you are keepin' cool over there in steamy Houston. ;>)

Averill said...

Lovely tribute to a very talented man!

Magdalena said...

What an amazing post. I adore the Kaufmann house and have learned so much more about it thanks to your endearing and informative post. He was truly a genious.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

thanks for this HUGE posting of Shulman's body of work. your appreciation of his work has piqued my interest in learning more about him... always the sign of an excellent piece. - Jg.

Pigtown*Design said...

I heard a great interview with him on NPR last week. It's fascinating to put the words together with the images.

Duchess of Tea said...

You are welcome Luv and thanks for the display and the kind comments.
Duchess xx

Renée Finberg said...

this is the coolest!
i love these homes. some i have seen before and some are new to me.

as YOU know...i couldn't read the whole post.
i am on info over-load from training.
your comments & cheering me on mean so much to me.
xx hugs too!

Anonymous said...

What a great post. He really was amazing. This is such a lovely tribute, Deb!

the paris apartment said...

What a legend! I had no idea who he was. This was a fantastic post. I'll be coming back to admire these photos.

DesignTies said...

Wow -- what an interesting, insightful, and informative post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and looking at all the pictures.

Thank you for the introduction to Mr. Shulman. He did some amazing work :-)


Dick and Dora said...

Wow, wow, wow, that is a fabulous post, thanks.

Kellie Collis said...

Incredible designs! Amazing talent.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Wow Debs...amazing..these have to have a bit of time spent on them to take it all in....I know people have said that they can't really have a favourite but I just love the black and white with the two young women.
Yeahhh...I finally managed to get onto your blog without my computer crashing..let's hope this comment will post !!! XXXX

DesignTies said...

Just popped back over to wish you luck in our giveaway :-)

The weather forecast for the next week is RAIN every day :-( PLEASE, send some of your sun & drought here -- I'll happily send you some of our rain in return!!


Alicia said...

What a genius!! His images are so pristine in nature, even when there are people within them.
I also love that he shots more in relation to the surroundings than just ta da here's a home.
All your wonderful words about me & poem...are you trying to make me cry too???

Marsi @ The Cottage Cheese said...

Shulman was a genius, and will be missed! His legacy will continue to live on through his work. No one can photograph modern as well as Shulman. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I get lost in a mid-century dreamland when I view his work.

Francine Gardner said...

What a great post! i love modernist architecture.
thanks for visiting my blog, hope you convince your husband to visit iceland. Indeed the women are beautiful and on week end they also party all night...

Duchess of Tea said...

Oh! what a man what an era, love it. Darling I just came over to wish you a lovely weekend.
Duchess xx

vicki archer said...

A wonderful tribute to an incredible man and very talented photographer. Thank you, xv.