Architects may design buildings, but it’s the architectural photographers that spark our love affairs with the structures.
During the midcentury, Julius Shulman (1910–2009) played Cupid between the general public and experimental practitioners in Southern California. Thanks to his eagle eye, Shulman could make slick, glass-and-steel homes feel sexy, as he did with the iconic nighttime photo of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study 22, perched high above the L.A. city lights; Bill Krisel‘s Palm Springs tract houses; and Richard Neutra’s Kaufman Desert House.
Shulman’s photographs of these three structures have been widely circulated–so much so that they’ve come to embody what we collectively envision when we hear about midcentury-modern architecture and the cosmopolitan, care-free lifestyle that accompanied it. However, those iconic images are only a minuscule fraction of the late photographer’s immense oeuvre. Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered, a forthcoming tome from Taschen, aims to present a fuller perspective on his life’s work.
Publisher Benedikt Taschen sifted through more than 250,000 images from Shulman’s archive to arrive at the 400 projects that appear in the three-volume set. “I was fascinated by the clarity of the composition in his pictures,” he writes in an essay that appears in the first volume. “The exposure was perfect and the staging dramatic—like in a Hollywood movie—with the architecture itself playing the leading role. It became the object of desire and the projection of a better world. Moreover, unlike most architectural photography until then, some of Shulman’s best photographs featured ‘real’ human beings. This was big news.”
Architectural projects from Southern California–Shulman’s bread and butter–are included along with images from the American Southwest and abroad. Famous names–like Gregory Ain, Craig Ellwood, and John Lautner–are presented alongside less well-known practitioners–like Lloyd Ruocco, Welton Becket, and William Alexander. Shulman photographed everything from houses to corporate offices and places of worship, and each building, regardless of how prominent its designer or lavish its design, gets the first-class treatment in front of his lens.
Spy a few of the rare images rediscovered in Taschen’s book ($150, available for preorder from Taschen.com) in the slideshow above.
[All Photos: Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute]