Five Important Contributions Photographer Julius Shulman Made to Modern Architecture


"Kaufmann House" photographed by Julius Shulman (1947) from VISUAL ACOUSTICS, an Arthouse Films release 2009. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust.
Source: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/uponsun/assets_c/2010/03/4KaufmannHouse-thumb-500x396.jpg

Eric Bricker’s documentary, “Visual Acoustics: the Modernism of Julius Shulman,” covers the importance of Shulman and his photography during the development of Modern Architecture in the United States during the Twentieth Century. Five points discussed in the film:

  1. Julius Shulman was not only instrumental in recording the development of Modern Architecture in the United States, but his vision also influenced how people the world over perceived those buildings. He created iconic images of the most important buildings of Richard Neutra, Rudolf Schindler and Frank Lloyd Wright, among many others.


    Photographer Julius Shulman (left) with Richard Neutra circa 1950.
    Source: http://www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/neutra306.jpg

  2. Through the publication of his photographs Shulman became a “tastemaker,” introducing the public to rising architectural stars.  John Lautner, Albert Frey, Pierre Koenig, Harwell Harris, Oscar Niemeyer, Abraham Zabludovsky and E. Stewart Williams were several of the architects whose reputations Shulman helped to establish. In bonus material on the “Visual Acoustics” DVD Frank Gehry admits that while Shulman was unsuccessful in getting photographs of the architect’s early work published, the photographer did find Gehry his first client.
  3. Shulman’s work “introduced an innovative lifestyle to the post-war public”(1). For each person who had the opportunity to visit one of these elegant private homes there may have been another 10,000 or more who saw Shulman’s photo of it in a magazine.


    "Case Study House #22 - Two Girls" photographed by Julius Shulman (1960). Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust.
    Source: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/uponsun/assets_c/2010/03/1CSHTwoGirls-thumb-300x371.jpg
  4. The attention to detail found in Shulman’s photographs makes them invaluable resources for restoration efforts of these modern structures. Two examples presented in “Visual Acoustics” are Neutra’s Grace Miller and Kaufmann Houses, both located in Palm Springs, California.  Architects Leo Marmol and Chris Shanley, who worked on the Kaufmann House restoration, stated that they could not have completed the project without referencing Shulman’s work.


    "Kaufmann House" photographed by Julius Shulman (1947). Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust
    Source: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/uponsun/assets_c/2010/03/4KaufmannHouse-thumb-500x396.jpg

  5. Although Shulman died in 2009, his spirit continues to influence scholars (2). Shulman’s photo archives are housed at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Woodbury University in San Diego, California established the Julius Shulman Institute for the study of modernism in architecture and design.

A fine collection of Shulman’s photographs of Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study Houses is posted on the Ecomagnificent blog.

References:

  1. Bricker, E. (producer/director) (2008).Visual Acoustics: the Modernism of Julius Shulman. New Video Group.  http://www.juliusshulmanfilm.com
  2. Julius Shulman photography archive, 1935-2007. (n.d.) Biographical/Historical Note. J. Paul Getty Trust. http://archives2.getty.edu:8082/xtf/view?docId=ead/2004.R.10/2004.R.10.xml;chunk.id=ref11;brand=default
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