Mid-Century Modern captured by Julius Shulman
Taken in 1960, Case Study House #22 is Julius Shulman’s most enduring work. The photograph is typical of Shulman’s style, heavily influenced by the ‘Mid-century Modern’ design movement which was popular on America’s west coast at the time.
Shulman’s career began in 1936 when he was enlisted by a friend to photograph the Kun Residence in Hollywood, recently designed by the architect Richard Neutra. Neutra was impressed by the quality of Shulman’s work and proceeded to give him his first assignments over the next few years. By 1950, Shulman had established himself as a leading architectural photographer, and opened his own studio in Los Angeles, commissioned by designers and architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames, Raphael Soriano and Pierre Koenig.
It was in 1960 that Shulman was commissioned to take this photograph of Koenig’s recently completed Stahl House, built high in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the city of Los Angeles. Koenig had designed the house in the popular ‘Mid-century Modern’ style, which had gained prominence in America in the 1950s. The style followed the principles of simplicity of form and integration with nature. Stahl House emphasised simple horizontal planes and its walls were made entirely of glass; Shulman’s photograph echoes these same design principles, highlighting the architectural form with its own precise composition and embedding the house within the background of the photograph and the glowing lights of Los Angeles.
Shulman’s photographs have become the most recognisable records of their subjects and he is credited with elevating architectural photography to a fine art form.