Julius Shulman, the photographer who captured famous treasures of twentieth- century modern architecture died at his home in Los Angeles last Wednesday, July 15, 2009. He was 98 years old.
During his career, Shulman photographed the exteriors and interiors of buildings by the most renowned architects like Richard Neutra, Charles Eames, and John Lautner, just to name a select few. It took a genius to eloquently capture the work of other geniuses and Shulman was instrumental in helping to promote the work of these talented architects. For Shulman, photography was a passion first and a vocation second. However, his interest in architecture was sparked by an “accidental” assignment, in 1936, to photograph Neutra’s Kun House located in Hollywood. “The Case Study Homes Program,” an experiment sponsored by “Art & Architecture” Magazine in 1945, called upon young architects to design homes suitable for post-war America, Shulman agreed to photograph the homes, images for which he became known for, free of charge.
It is Shulman’s photograph of Pierre Koenig’s “Case Study House #22” (The Stahl House, 1960) that will always stay with me (as it will with others, I am sure). This is perhaps one of the most iconic architectural photographs of the twentieth-century. It has crossed boundaries and is no longer simply an architecture photograph but one that has entered the lexicon of pop culture. With this work, Shulman did not just capture Keonig’s architectural prowess in designing a home on a hill with floor to ceiling glass walls but it embodies Hollywood glamour. The image just as its subject is like a dream. Never had a conversation between two women in their sitting room look so good.
Shulman’s work will hopefully not be forgotten by future generations. The Getty Center in Los Angeles acquired, in 2005, Schulman’s archive of 260,000 negatives, transparencies and prints. The museum also honored him with an exhibition on his 95th birthday in 2005.