Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

4/20/2011

What happened: Shulman book launch

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

What I love most about attending events is leaving having learned something new. Last week, I attended the book launch for "Julius Shulman Los Angeles: the Birth of a Modern Metropolis" at Woodbury University.

Woodbury University reminds me of UCLA's Royce Hall. Credit: Carren Jao

I initially came just to support one of the authors, Sam Lubell, a friend who introduced me to the many faces of Los Angeles. I left with a renewed appreciation for Julius Shulman, a man whose photographs not only framed the world's view of what modernism meant, but also documented a Los Angeles is the cusp of change.

Julius Shulman, from the sound of things, seems to be blessed by the gods of fate. Unlike his other brothers, he "didn't worry about money," said his daughter Judy McKee, who was part of the panel discussion that night. Instead of worrying, he walked all around Los Angeles, simply taking photographs and practicing his craft. This was even before he made a name for himself.

Shulman tirelessly photographed almost every day, shared Anne Blacksmith of the Getty Research Institute. His log books, where he wrote down what photographs he took and when, showed that on some days he would do one job in one part of the city, then swing by another place to do another job before finally going home (perhaps to process the photos?) In those days, developing film wasn't the point and shoot affair it is now.

On the back of this photo was the handwritten note by Julius that read, "Nice legs," shared Emily. Credit: Carren Jao

In the same way an artist infuses his art with his personality, so did Shulman. Sure, he took photographs of architecture, but he imbued it the same boundless optimism he had for the future. "Julius was the perfect spokesman for modernism. He was the most optimistic person I knew," said Craig Krullman, the gallerist who first placed Shulman's photographs in a fine art setting.

Shulman was known for framing shots with branches to make a scene more idyllic or help the viewer zoom into the heart of the photograph (according to Shulman's neighbor who was in the audience). Credit: Carren Jao

As the night went on, Krullman also pointed out how many of Shulman's photographs were way ahead of their time. Many of the treatments he used in his photographs were now evident in newer fine art photographs.

Another side of Shulman's iconic Case Study House #22. Credit: Carren Jao

Shulman took so many photographs that his archive--worth 70 years of work--was like a slow-motion movie, said Blacksmith. In a world where cynicism is easily found, it's refreshing to be immersed in a world full of bright possibilities reflected through Julius Shulman's eyes.

My copy of Sam and Doug's book came right on the night of the panel discussion. Credit: Carren Jao

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