Julius Shulman: Architecture and its Photography

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9783822872048: Julius Shulman: Architecture and its Photography

American photographer Julius Shulman's images of Californian architecture have burned themselves into the retina of the 20th century. A book on modern architecture without Shulman is inconceivable. Some of his architectural photographs, like the iconic shots of Frank Lloyd Wright's or Pierre Koenig's remarkable structures, have been published countless times. The brilliance of buildings like those by Charles Eames, as well as those of his close Friend, Richard Neutra, was first brought to light by Shulman's photography. The clarity of his work demanded that architectural photography had to be considered as an independent art form. Each Schulman image unites perception and understanding for the buildings and their place in the landscape. The precise compositions reveal not just the architectural ideas behind a building's surface, but also the visions and hopes of an entire age. A sense of humanity is always present in his work, even when the human figure is absent from the actual photographs. Today, a great many of the buildings documented by Shulman have disappeared or been crudely converted, but the thirst for his pioneering images is stronger than ever before. This is a vivid journey across six decades of great architecture and classic photography through the famously incomparable eyes of Julius Shulman.

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Review:

Our contact with great architecture tends to be indirect, through representations. Few of us have seen the Taj Mahal, yet we all know exactly what it looks like. The useful act of photographing buildings can be an art, particularly when the photographer's presence seems to recede, and a great architectural shot suggests that you're seeing things as they are rather than through someone else's prism.

Julius Shulman has documented buildings in that seemingly transparent way for more than six decades. This meticulous and prolific craftsman was in the right place, California, at the right time, the golden age of West Coast modern residential architecture that spanned the 1930s to the 1960s. Richard Neutra helped him get his start, and he recorded early modernists such as Wright, Schindler, Soriano, Harris, Frey, Ain, Stone, Gropius, Kahn, and Neutra, as well as younger ones such as Goff, Lautner, Ellwood, Koenig, Drake, Killingsworth, Eames, Greene, Legoretta, and even early Frank Gehry. His view camera captured the glamour of hillside steel-and-glass houses cantilevered above the city lights, the serenity of desert vacation homes at dusk, and the clean-lined ingenuity of young architects working on modest budgets.

Shulman's text is a knotty quasi biography, but some good stories lurk there. This is a physically impressive book: its 300 large-format pages contain 500 superbly reproduced color and black-and-white photos that are worth more than the proverbial thousand words each. --John Pastier

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Shulman, Julius
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