Photographer Julius Shulman lived high up in the hills of Laurel Canyon, where visitors to his landmark 1947 steel-frame modernist house would usually find chocolates and a big jar of peanuts amid the organized clutter of his office. That’s how Shulman, who died in his sleep July 15 at age 98, liked his architecture: lived in, with function and imagination rendered at human scale.
His pictures were, of course, idealized images of modern homes and other buildings, but the human figure often played a crucial role, perhaps most spectacularly in the startling elegance of his “Case Study #22.” In that 1960 photograph, two young women sit comfortably in the corner living room of a glass-walled Pierre Koenig home as it extends out over the lights of nighttime Los Angeles, interior and exterior in vibrant harmony. It was powerful evidence of a rich culture in Los Angeles — though too many of his pictures have outlived the original structures.
Shulman was an enthusiastic champion of other L.A. photographers and was still shooting during his final years with the help of collaborator Juergen Nogai. He’d traveled the world, but never felt the need to relocate to Manhattan or any other city bursting with architecture. He found his greatest subject right here.