Monday, July 20, 2009

Modern Love

A brief appreciation of photographer Julius Shulman, who passed away last week at the age of 98. As always (and so frequently of late...) the New York Times' obituary is a must-read. Check their slide show as well for more images.

Julius Shulman in front of Richard Neutra's Kaufmann Residence.
Shulman first photographed this Palm Springs house in March 1947. “I was looking outside toward twilight, and the desert was aglow with that wonderful alpine blue light,” he recalls. “I ran back in the house, got my camera, and told Neutra and Kaufmann that they would enjoy looking at the house and the twilight toward the mountains. So I ran outside ahead of them, held my camera, and by the time I was ready to make an exposure they had come out and seen the view. Mr. Kaufmann said, ‘I’ve never seen that house before at twilight. It’s beautiful.’ Later the black-and-white photo became the most widely published of all Neutra houses.”

Julius Shulman: Frey Residence II by Albert Frey
“When Frey bought the property up in the hills above Palm Springs, there were no houses up there at all, just a lot of huge boulders,” Shulman says. “Frey’s excavation man looked at the property and told Albert that there was a mammoth boulder right on the site and that he’d have to dynamite it away, and Albert said, ‘Oh no. I’m going to build my master bedroom and part of the living area there. I want that boulder to be part of my room.’ And he left the boulder in the middle of the house. It’s delightful. It works. It’s not anything special architecturally, but it’s beautifully suited to the site.”

Julius Shulman: Stahl Residence by Pierre Koenig
“The Stahls purchased a piece of property on a steep hillside with a 270-degree view of Los Angeles,” Shulman says. “Some people might not want to build on such a difficult lot, but Pierre agreed to design a house for them. The house, known as Case Study House #22, hangs over the edge of the cliff, and when it was published it created a sensation. It’s been in nearly every architectural book and magazine throughout the world since 1960. So in approaching the image, I thought: How to best portray this structure and its relationship, interior and exterior, to the site and function of the house? You see the view, the sitting room. This is how the house functions. To achieve the picture of this projecting steel beam in the foreground that directs attention into and through the entire house—to demonstrate how the house literally floats in space—I sat on a wall outside. The key to a successful photograph is about finding the proper balance of light, using it properly, and finding the right time of day. My photographs are successful because the architecture melds so beautifully with the environment.”

Quotations from
Julius Shulman, Modernism Rediscovered published by Taschen.

See also: via Daily Operation, the trailer for a new movie about Shulman.

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