A Few Modernist Homes To Daydream About
Frey residence by Mr Albert Frey, Palm Springs, California, 1956. Photograph by Mr Julius Shulman. © J Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at Getty Research Institute
No matter how far we journey in time from the middle of the 20th century, its architectural masterpieces still seem indefatigably cool. Social mores and tastes have changed – you don’t see so much orange and brown any more, for one thing – but still it’s always nice to imagine oneself in some balmy, limitlessly funded future, padding around in a glass box by Mr Richard Neutra or Mr Eero Saarinen, gazing out at a sparkling pool. Of course the enduring appeal of these buildings is in part thanks to their ingenious design. But they may not have inserted themselves so firmly into the popular psyche if they hadn’t first been captured by Mr Julius Shulman, an architectural photographer, whose sharp, graphic and impeccably lit images have stood the test of time as much as the beautiful buildings they depict.
Greenberg residence by Buff & Hensman, Palos Verdes, California, 1966. Photograph by Mr Julius Shulman. © J Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at Getty Research Institute
Mr Shulman started his career working for Mr Neutra, who recognising Mr Shulman’s talent engaged him to take some shots of his Kun Residence project in 1936. After setting up his studio in Los Angeles in 1950, the photographer spent the next 30 years creating the ultimate photos of some of the 20th century’s most iconic buildings, in the process helping to invent architectural photography as a discipline in its own right. His work is recognisable for its strong contrasts of light and shadow and masterful, spacious use of perspective – both of which traits are perhaps best summed up by his deservedly famous 1960 photograph of Mr Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House (number 22 of the 36 modernist designs commissioned by LA’s Arts & Architecture magazine between 1945 and 1966).
Spring Hotel, Bequia, by Crites & McConnell, St Vincent and the Grenadines, 1967. Photograph by Mr Julius Shulman. © J Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at Getty Research Institute
Such is the ubiquity of Mr Shulman’s images that most will have seen at least a few of them, unaware of their origins. But for anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into the photographer’s oeuvre, Taschen is releasing a new edition of its substantial set of books Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered this month. Comprising images of over 400 buildings, it’s something of a crash course in Shulman studies, as well as a peek into the utopian spirit of the era. Hold one of its four volumes close to your face and pretend you’re sitting there, listening to bebop and sipping a dry martini.