Known as “one shot Shulman,” Julius Shulman (1910-2009) launched his career after a chance meeting with architect Richard Neutra. In the 1930s, Shulman was an amateur photographer—gifted, but without professional ambition—when he was invited by an architect friend to visit Richard Neutra’s Kun House. Shulman, who’d never seen a modern residence, took a handful of snapshots with the Kodak vest-pocket camera his sister had given him, and sent copies to his friend as a thank-you. When Neutra saw the images, he requested a meeting, bought the photos, and asked the 26-year-old if he’d like more work. Shulman accepted and—virtually on a whim—his career took off. Throughout his life he documented more than 6,500 projects, capturing postwar American culture through architecture.
In 2007, Julius Shulman gave Dwell a tour of his home by architect Raphael Soriano in Laurel Canyon.
“I have four Ts,” he said. “Transcend is, I go beyond what the architect himself has seen. Transfigure—glamorize, dramatize with lighting, time of day. Translate—there are times, when you’re working with a man like Neutra, who wanted everything the way he wanted it—‘Put the camera here.’ And after he left, I’d put it back where I wanted it, and he wouldn’t know the difference—I translated. And fourth, I transform the composition with furniture movement."
The photographer paid $2,500 for his two-acre property, and $40,000 for the Raphael Soriano–designed studio and house, into which he moved in 1950. "All in cash," Shulman says. "My mother taught us, 'Never have a mortgage.'" Over the ensuing decades, he says, "I planted hundreds of trees and shrubs, to emulate how I lived as a child [on a farm in Connecticut]. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)
At Shulman’s insistence, Soriano created a screened area that protects the house from the garden. “In hot weather, when I have the sliding glass doors open, I close the screens on the sides—otherwise it’s all open to the coyotes and raccoons.” In keeping with the off-the-shelf ethic of the Case Study era, Soriano used simple, durable materials that, after 57 years, remain intact. Photo by Catherine Ledner.