The American architectural photographer who popularised California modernism has died at the age of 98
Here we present a selection of his timeless photographs as seen on the image site Flickr and, below, some of the tributes paid so far.
Julius Shulman (1910 - 2009)
‘If Southern California and its culture were built on salesmanship, Julius Shulman sold the place as well as anyone.
‘The hugely influential architectural photographer, who died Wednesday at 98, turned snapshots of the region’s buildings - in particular, modernist houses by Richard Neutra, Pierre Koenig, John Lautner and others — into crisply alluring campaigns for life in sunny, cosmopolitan and forward-looking Los Angeles.
‘If that makes him appear as much businessman as visionary - well, Shulman himself confronted that very suggestion over the years and rarely voiced more than a smiling, half-hearted objection to it. He would tell you without hesitation that he was a booster for Los Angeles - and, indeed, when a generation of photographers who favored grittier depictions of the city came along in the 1970s, he didn’t try to hide his disdain for their approach.’
Los Angeles Times
‘He was the biggest architectural photographer of all times. He transformed architectural photography from commercial status to a fine art form.’
Craig Krull, Shulman’s representative, speaking today
‘Shulman’s respect for Modernist architecture and unique compositions, as well as his spitfire personality, were legendary in the design community and celebrated around the world. Tapped at the young age of 26 to shoot for Richard Neutra, Shulman’s images arguably launched the careers of the period’s most famous architects: Rudolph Schindler, Pierre Koenig, John Lautner, Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Raphael Soriano, who designed the house that Shulman had lived in for decades.’
‘He has a sense of visual bravura of composition, so that he can take a rather mundane house and make it look exciting, and take a spectacular house and make it look triply spectacular.’
Robert Sobieszek, photography curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
‘In my experience he was both low-key and agreeable; sometimes tired-seeming, but never bitter. He always answered his own phone, though it seemed as the years went on it took more and more rings before he’d pick up and say, in a sing-songy, optimistic voice that seemed to deserve a permanent exclamation point, “Julius Shulman!”
‘In general, he struck me as more comfortable as a promoter than a self-promoter; when he called me, as he did a handful of times each year, it was almost always because he wanted to drum up some coverage in the paper not for himself but for a colleague or friend.’
‘Over a career of more than half a century, Mr. Shulman almost always used black-and-white film, the better to reduce his subjects to their geometric essentials. But he was also able to make the hard glass and steel surfaces of postwar Modernist architecture appear comfortable and inviting.
‘He largely abjured skyscrapers in favor of houses and was one of the first photographers to include the inhabitants of homes in his pictures. They lent the buildings a charming if sometimes incongruous air of domesticity.’
New York Times
‘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.’