When Julius Shulman died on July 15, the architecture community lost a beloved contributor. As one of the most accomplished architectural photographers of the 20th century, Shulman skillfully conveyed the humanity and beauty of modern design. And he served as a model of graceful aging, continuing to produce stunning photographs into his late 90s.

Over the past couple of weeks, ra has spoken with friends, colleagues, and admirers of Shulman's. Read on for compelling—and unexpected—excerpts from these conversations.

Juergen Nogai, photographer and business partner

"For nearly 99 years—it was [roughly] two months before his 99th birthday—it was incredible how active he was. He had so many projects in his mind. All about architecture, all about education—he wanted to educate. He was so involved. He said, 'Juergen, talk to young people. Teach them about the importance of architecture and photography.' He saw the camera as a weapon with which he could fight things he didn't really like. And also as a powerful tool to educate. ...

He did an incredible number of photos documenting how Los Angeles has changed. When The New York Times or Los Angeles Times is doing something [on Shulman], it's always Case Study House No. 22, or the Kaufmann House. [But] what was for him an important photo was an image of City Hall with a puddle of water out front, and in the water you see a construction site reflected. They're not these iconic photos he did—they're much more silent—but I would say they're just as good. ... What I learned from him was the way he was thinking about architecture. He always wanted to tell the story of the house without having a floor plan. One photo leads you into another. Step by step you're walking though a house. ... It was worth the fights we had sometimes! I would put the friendship first and then our work relationship. We mostly disagreed on work situations. Our arguments were about matters of inches. ...

If the body could have made it to 120, he would have—his mind and brain were so open. There was not one moment where he was bored. Everything was exciting—everything. When I went to pick him up for an assignment, he would be reading the newspaper. We were always talking about social problems, politics. You can see how he tried to show how people are living—he tried to show the connection of architecture and life. He was an environmentalist. He was involved in the National Audubon Society and nature preserves. He gave a big part of his land to the Santa Monica Conservancy. He was a very, very engaged, environmental-thinking person. A lot of people don't know that. They see the pictures, but the person behind these photos—a very unusual person—that is really what we have lost. ...

He was very grounded. Anyone could talk to him. Julius didn't really realize what he did, until [gallery owner] Craig Krull came to him and wanted to do a show. [Shulman] didn't know the value of his photos at that time. In that way, he didn't come with an attitude. His attitude was, 'I want to make great architectural photos and talk to people about it, and be around architects and architecture. I want to make the world more beautiful.'

Julius was always in these kinds of collaborations. Schindler taught him about lighting. These architects were in some ways teaching him how to make his photos better. He always said, 'Never stop learning. If you stop learning, you are dead.' We hear that a lot, but when you hear it from him, you know it really means something."


Eric Bricker, director of Visual Acoustics, a documentary film about Julius Shulman coming to theaters this fall

"Ultimately the film is about the spirit of this guy who's lived this incredible life, a life filled with curiosity and creativity. ... I was working as an art consultant in L.A. and by chance met his neighbor. I needed some 1930s photos of San Francisco. At my first meeting with him, he was on the phone when I got there. (The phone was attached to him at all times!) Julius' studio is Disneyland for adults. There are books and letters and magazines everywhere. I was blown away by it and was equally blown away by him. 'Uncle Julius,' as he refers to himself, was able to connect with people on a lot of different levels. We developed a friendship. I had the idea for the film in 2001 and presented it to him. His response was, 'I don't see why not.' I wanted to see the photos on the big screen. ...

He doesn't like to refer to photographing as 'shooting.' He'd say, 'I don't shoot. I'm not a hunter!' ...

What was amazing about Julius was that he was constantly reminding himself of the next date, whether it was a photography assignment or a lecture at a high school or a meeting with an architect—and yet he's one of the very few people able to completely live in the moment as much as possible. He might see a bird outside and talk about what kind of bird it was, what their mating call is. I always called him 'the eternal boy scout.' ...

Neither Julius nor Judy [McKee, Shulman's daughter] asked me once when the movie would be finished. It took awhile. Never once did they put pressure on me to finish it. ...

I'm now living in Austin, in the Hill Country. It's beautiful. I'm reminded of Julius on a daily basis. The clouds here are really cottony and fluffy and hang really low in the sky. When I notice how beautiful they are, that's him, that's his kernel. Now I take delight in my natural environment—I got that from him."

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