“A wonderful mess” is how Shulman describes his desk. Interspersed among the family snapshots, mementos, and tchotchkes are several enlarged quotations, including one from Art News: “If buildings were people, those in Julius Shulman’s photographs would be Grace Kelly: classically elegant, intriguingly remote.”
"I'm always identified as being the best architectural photographer in the world," declares Shulman. "I disclaim that. I say, 'One of the best.'" 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]."
At Shulman’s insistence, Soriano created a screened area that protects the gardenside elevation of the house from, says the photographer, “excessive wind and glaring light. 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.
"No landscape architect would do this mishmash," says Shulman of his beloved garden. "Behind my land is 53 acres, which now belong to the Santa Monica Conservancy, so it's protected," he says. "My daughter's son will probably live here when he grows up—he's only 25 or 30 now." Though the photographer uses a walker—dubbed "the Mercedes"—to maintain his balance, he claims to have given up skiing and backpacking in the Sierras only a few years ago.