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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Julius Shulman

I started this blog September 6, 2010. Some of you have been readers since the beginning. Others have come on board later. From now through the end of the month, I'm going to be on a short blogging break. Not only am I in the middle of a big volunteer project, I'm also trying to help get the new store open, so I've decided share some of my favorite posts from the past four years. I'll throw in a few new photos for you longtime supporters who read the posts when they were first published.

(First posted 11/9/2012)

Julius Shulman (1910-2009) was perhaps the most famous and most talented American photographer of modernist architecture. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, but the family moved to a farm in Connecticut soon afterward. It was there that Shulman's love of nature and the awareness of light and shadow began to influence his future career choice.

When Shulman was 10, the family moved to Los Angeles. He graduated from Roosevelt High School, where he took his only course in photography. After being what he termed "an academic drifter" for seven years at UCLA and UC Berkeley, he left college without a degree.

In 1936, just two weeks after leaving Berkeley, a man who was renting a room from Shulman's sister invited him along to see a Richard Neutra's Kun House. Shulman always carried a camera with him and took photos of the house. The man, who worked as a draftsman for Neutra, showed the photographs to the architect, who sent for the young Shulman and ordered more prints.

As a result of this chance meeting with Neutra, Shulman met other prominent architects, such as Rafael Soriano and Rudolph Schindler. After serving in World War II, Shulman came home to find himself in even more demand than before the war. Of the two dozen Case Study homes designed by such architects as Charles Eames, Craig Ellwood, A. Quincy Jones, Pierre Koenig, Neutra and Soriano, Shulman took photographs of 18.

Before his 70-year career ended, he also photographed the houses of Gregory Ain, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Lautner, Eero Saarinen, Albert Frey, Frank Gehry, Harwell Harris and many others. His work was contained in virtually every book published on modernist architects.

The image of Koenig's Case Study House #22, which was built for Carlotta and Buck Stahl, was the photograph that would secure Shulman's reputation and career. The black-and-white image, taken from outside the house as the sun was setting May 9, 1960, shows two pretty women dressed for a special night out, but for the moment, sitting and chatting. The image became an iconic snapshot of the good life.

Always generous with what he knew about his profession, Shulman for decades conducted seminars in photography at USC, UCLA and other universities. He was awarded the American Institute of Architecture's Gold Medal for architectural photography in 1969.

When Shulman was well into his 90s, a three-volume set called Modernism Rediscovered was published by Taschen. The set features more than 400 of his architectural projects.

From and

Neutra's Kun House

Eames/Saarinen's Entenza Residence

Soriano's Krause Residence

Gehry's Steeves Residence

Ain's Wilfong Residence

Koenig's Stahl House (Case Study House #22)

Neutra's Kronish House

Shulman at work

Shulman staging a shot with branches and plants

Shulman with Richard Neutra

Shulman at work in later years

If you haven't seen the documentary Visual Acoustics, I recommend that you visit the film site to learn more about the available DVD or about screening dates on the Sundance Channel and elsewhere.


  1. Love the added branches. Wright would also draw plants on photographs.

    1. I thought that photo was priceless. Most architectural photography always looks so lush and landscaped. Now I know why!

  2. I'd add that the documentary is on Netflix, too. It's now in my queue. Thanks!

    1. I found it on Amazon and Hulu, but it didn't show up on my Netflix search. I put it on my Amazon watchlist.

  3. You've piqued my interest Dana; now to go find out more... =)

    1. I think you'll love finding out more about this fascinating, talented man.