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Design Icon: Julius Shulman

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Julius Shulman was a famous American photographer known for his residential photography of modernist residences in midcentury Southern California.
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  Known as “one shot Shulman,” Julius Shulman (1910-2009) launched his career after a chance meeting with architect Richard Neutra. In the 1930s, Shulman was an amateur photographer—gifted, but without professional ambition—when he was invited by an architect friend to visit Richard Neutra’s Kun House. Shulman, who’d never seen a modern residence, took a handful of snapshots with the Kodak vest-pocket camera his sister had given him, and sent copies to his friend as a thank-you. When Neutra saw the images, he requested a meeting, bought the photos, and asked the 26-year-old if he’d like more work. Shulman accepted and—virtually on a whim—his career took off. Throughout his life he documented more than 6,500 projects, capturing postwar American culture through architecture.   Photo by: Catherine Ledner

    Known as “one shot Shulman,” Julius Shulman (1910-2009) launched his career after a chance meeting with architect Richard Neutra. In the 1930s, Shulman was an amateur photographer—gifted, but without professional ambition—when he was invited by an architect friend to visit Richard Neutra’s Kun House. Shulman, who’d never seen a modern residence, took a handful of snapshots with the Kodak vest-pocket camera his sister had given him, and sent copies to his friend as a thank-you. When Neutra saw the images, he requested a meeting, bought the photos, and asked the 26-year-old if he’d like more work. Shulman accepted and—virtually on a whim—his career took off. Throughout his life he documented more than 6,500 projects, capturing postwar American culture through architecture. 

    Photo by: Catherine Ledner

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  Completed in 1929, Neutra’s Lovell Health house was the first steel-frame residence in the U.S., and was built using prefab elements (the home’s framing went up in two days). Shulman shot the home, which Neutra included in the 1932 Museum of Modern Art Modern Architecture exhibition, on three occasions. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10) 
    Completed in 1929, Neutra’s Lovell Health house was the first steel-frame residence in the U.S., and was built using prefab elements (the home’s framing went up in two days). Shulman shot the home, which Neutra included in the 1932 Museum of Modern Art Modern Architecture exhibition, on three occasions. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)
     
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  Shulman's shot of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House No. 22 in 1960 became one of the most iconic photographs of modern U.S. architecture and many felt like it encapsulated Los Angeles during at that time.  Shulman ultimately photographed 18 of the 26 Case Study Houses commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute
    Shulman's shot of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House No. 22 in 1960 became one of the most iconic photographs of modern U.S. architecture and many felt like it encapsulated Los Angeles during at that time. Shulman ultimately photographed 18 of the 26 Case Study Houses commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute
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  In 2007, Julius Shulman gave Dwell a tour of his home by architect Raphael Soriano in Laurel Canyon.“I have four Ts,” he said. “Transcend is, I go beyond what the architect himself has seen. Transfigure—glamorize, dramatize with lighting, time of day. Translate—there are times, when you’re working with a man like Neutra, who wanted everything the way he wanted it—‘Put the camera here.’ And after he left, I’d put it back where I wanted it, and he wouldn’t know the difference—I translated. And fourth, I transform the composition with furniture movement."  Photo by: Catherine Ledner

    In 2007, Julius Shulman gave Dwell a tour of his home by architect Raphael Soriano in Laurel Canyon.

    “I have four Ts,” he said. “Transcend is, I go beyond what the architect himself has seen. Transfigure—glamorize, dramatize with lighting, time of day. Translate—there are times, when you’re working with a man like Neutra, who wanted everything the way he wanted it—‘Put the camera here.’ And after he left, I’d put it back where I wanted it, and he wouldn’t know the difference—I translated. And fourth, I transform the composition with furniture movement."

    Photo by: Catherine Ledner

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  The photographer paid $2,500 for his two-acre property, and $40,000 for the Raphael Soriano–designed studio and house, into which he moved in 1950. "All in cash," Shulman says. "My mother taught us, 'Never have a mortgage.'" Over the ensuing decades, he says, "I planted hundreds of trees and shrubs, to emulate how I lived as a child [on a farm in Connecticut].  © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)

    The photographer paid $2,500 for his two-acre property, and $40,000 for the Raphael Soriano–designed studio and house, into which he moved in 1950. "All in cash," Shulman says. "My mother taught us, 'Never have a mortgage.'" Over the ensuing decades, he says, "I planted hundreds of trees and shrubs, to emulate how I lived as a child [on a farm in Connecticut].  © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)

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  At Shulman’s insistence, Soriano created a screened area that protects the house from the garden. “In hot weather, when I have the sliding glass doors open, I close the screens on the sides—otherwise it’s all open to the coyotes and raccoons.” In keeping with the off-the-shelf ethic of the Case Study era, Soriano used simple, durable materials that, after 57 years, remain intact. Photo by Catherine Ledner.  Photo by: Catherine Ledner

    At Shulman’s insistence, Soriano created a screened area that protects the house from the garden. “In hot weather, when I have the sliding glass doors open, I close the screens on the sides—otherwise it’s all open to the coyotes and raccoons.” In keeping with the off-the-shelf ethic of the Case Study era, Soriano used simple, durable materials that, after 57 years, remain intact. Photo by Catherine Ledner.

    Photo by: Catherine Ledner

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  When Dwell visited Shulman two years before his death, he was satisfied with the career he had built, and still actively giving lectures, photographing houses, and talking to journalists. "I'm always identified as being the best architectural photographer in the world," Shulman declared. "I disclaim that. I say, 'One of the best."
    When Dwell visited Shulman two years before his death, he was satisfied with the career he had built, and still actively giving lectures, photographing houses, and talking to journalists. "I'm always identified as being the best architectural photographer in the world," Shulman declared. "I disclaim that. I say, 'One of the best."

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