Julius Shulman is widely regarded as the most important architectural photographer in history. Over a seventy year career Shulman not only documented the work of many of the great architects of the 20th century, but he elevated the genre of commercial architectural photography to a fine art form. It is illuminating to recognize the simple fact that the work of architects such as Neutra, Koenig, and Lautner are virtually known all over the world through the images and perspective of Julius Shulman. As Neutra astutely observed, “His work will survive me. Film is stronger and good glossy prints are easier to ship than brute concrete, stainless steel, or even ideas.”
Born in 1910, Shulman and his family moved to California from a small farm in Connecticut at the age of 10. In the mid-thirties, Shulman attended UCLA and Berkeley, never formally registering at either school, but merely auditing classes that appealed to him. In 1936, having just returned to L.A. from Berkeley, he accompanied an acquaintance (one of Richard Neutra’s draftsman) on a visit to Neutra’s Kun Residence which was under construction. Shulman made six photographs on this trip which Neutra liked and subsequently bought. Soon after Neutra introduced Shulman to other architects and urged him to build his career as a photographer.
After making over 260,000 images, Shulman announced his “retirement” in 1989, but the next twenty years were filled with major museum and gallery exhibitions around the world, numerous books by publishers such as Taschen and Nazraeli Press, and a growing list of clients seeking his photographic services. In 2000 he met the German industrial/architectural photographer Juergen Nogai who had come up to Shulman’s studio to meet the legendary man. The two have been collaborating photographically ever since, revisiting locations previously photographed by Shulman and building a client list of new contemporary architects. In 2005, the Getty Research Institute acquired Shulman’s vast archive, but he continued to work until the age of 98. Shulman passed on Wednesday July 15th, 2009 in his home in Los Angeles.