Interview with Julius Shulman (1990)

“I had been blessed with an innate, a built-in, quality of design composition–of composition, not just design composition.”


Interview with Julius Shulman

Conducted by Taina Rikala De Noreiga at the Artist’s home in Hollywood Hills (Los Angeles), California. January 12 & 20, February 3, 1990.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Let’s start by you telling us when and where you were born.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, 10/10/10 [meaning October 10, 1910–Ed.], as were two sisters and one brother. And my mother and father had come from Russia, separately, at the latter part of the last century. The family moved to Connecticut when I was a few months old.

My father was a farmer in Central Village, which is northeast of Norwich, which is in turn about twenty miles up the Thames River from New London, Connecticut. That’s on the way up towards the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border. We had a large farm, I don’t remember how large, one hundred acres or so. Apparently we lived off the farm, which was a mile and a half outside of Central Village. My two sisters, brother, and I walked to school every day. I was then five years old (1915).

What I remember in my deepest memory is strange, because here I was sitting next to my mother on an open wagon. She drove the horse. My father with other members of the family, the brothers and sisters, on another wagon in front of us, leading the way. We apparently had been riding the horses and wagons from our previous farms, where we had lived for a short time. I remember my father waving to my mother towards what appeared to be a house up on a slight rise in the land above the roadway–dirt road of course. He turned with his horse and wagon up the drive to the farmhouse where we were to live the next three or four years. That was the beginning of my memory of our approach to the farm and the ensuing experiences.

Recall: My mother and father worked the farm with one helper. We lived off of it. There was an occasional buggy trip to Moosup for fresh meats, chicken, and fish–a distance of three miles.

Of course, as children, we failed to realize how gigantic a task was performed by our mother. I have a profound respect for her. As with the women of the covered wagon days, walking mostly across deserts and prairies, snow-covered mountain passes, and constantly in fear of Indian attacks were daily events.

At least my mother was capable of raising five children. The youngest was born at home shortly after we arrived in Central Village. Up at dawn to care for the scores of chickens, collect eggs, milk the cows, and then to prepare breakfast for a family of seven! Yet there was the ability to bake breads. Between those chores she cut potato “eyes” to prepare the planting with my father, whose horse-drawn plow furrowed the soil.

Of course we had one of those deep, dark, cold, cement cellars, which people had in the Midwest and on the East Coast. No one had refrigeration. We didn’t have ice boxes, for sure. So everything was in the cellar–my mother used to make preserves, put up vegetables and store items that had to be kept cool.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Did they make money with any of their products?

JULIUS SHULMAN: No. I don’t think they sold their farm production, eggs perhaps, because my mother had a large number of chickens. Rhode Island Reds, I remember the name. The chickens attracted foxes. Our farm was in a forest. I remember hearing noises in the morning, at dawn, and my mother and father would dash out with sticks or brooms because a fox would be trying to get into the chicken coop. Many wild animals inhabited the forests. Deer, fox, raccoons, possum are some I recall. I remember one day my father chasing a deer trying to catch it for me, but it jumped over a fence, away it went.


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Life was fascinating because farm life continued on until I was ten years old. I would wander away from the house. My mother would come looking for me, and I’d be found by a little pond on the side of the forest, at the edge of the farm. My mother first would look through the corn fields. My mother enjoyed relating to the family how she found me, quite frequently, talking to a snake. I never forgot those moments.

But anyhow, that was the beginning of my association with Nature–on that farm and continuing with California, 1922, Boy Scouts, hiking, camping, relation with photography, it’s effect on composition and pictorialism. [After moving to Central Valley, California in 1920–Ed.], within a couple of years I joined the Boy Scouts, and I continued, apparently, my association with nature. And this has never left me, and this has had a lot to with my avoidance of commercial work.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Under what circumstances did your father decide to move, do you know?

JULIUS SHULMAN: I don’t know, except this: In those days, California was magic. It was the land of gold, and you heard stories from people. My father apparently knew people who had heard about–from their friends or relatives–about California. It was a land of opportunity. It was a land of endless possibilities, physically, climate, and economically–which of course turned out to be true, because we came here in September of 1920 by train–mother, father, five children. And you think of the covered wagon days, this was deluxe because you traveled by train, stopped in New York for a couple days–my mother and father had brothers and sisters there–then we took the train and went on to California. Traveling with five children cross-country I guess is no picnic even by train. My brothers and sisters and I went to the elementary school here, at Alpine Street School, near Sunset Boulevard and Figueroa Street. My father’s store was on Temple Street a few blocks away.

It was difficult for me to understand how my father did accumulate enough wherewithal to make the drastic moves in the family’s life. He did have one other occupation when we lived in Central Village. He was gone for a long time certain parts of the year, and it turns out that he had connections with fur trappers in northern New England and into the Canadian New Brunswick province. He would purchase fur pelts–I remember in our barn loft on the farm there were many fur pelts hanging. Apparently furriers came to the farm from New York and purchased the pelts, which must have provided a substantial income! The farm provided essential food stuff. Central Valley’s population of 293(!) hardly was a market, except my mother did sell eggs, corn, potatoes…

I remember a cellar filled with jars and crocks of preserved vegetables and fruits, and my mother put them up; she was able to cook or store them. I still see my mother baking bread and making rolls on a big table where she able to roll out the dough. It was like magic. And our stove was a six-burner wood and coal stove. And I remember lying under the stove playing with our cat–I was five or six at the time–my mother cooking and working. The water supply came from a pump on the sink, a hand pump. The toilets were outside. Sears Roebuck catalogs for paper.

Now in retrospect all those events on the farm are so strange and remote, but they’re all part of a lifetime. We had a crank telephone. The number I remember was one-eight, ring five. Then came our first view of an automobile. One day we heard a noise on our driveway. One of the neighbors, a farmer, had just bought a Model-T Ford. We had never seen an automobile before! That was about 1916 or ’17, about the time of World War I. I remember one time an airplane flew over the farm, and the phone began to ring. All the farmers around were asking, “Did you see the airplane?” What an event for a farmboy in 1917!

We had no electricity, of course. We had kerosene lamps, and, “My God,” you would ask, “how did you get along in this world?” But we did.

The baths were in the tubs in the middle of the kitchen, hot water boiled on the stove, and my mother did all this. She died at the age of 87, out here, a few years ago. My father had died young. He just burned himself up. But my mother raised the family.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So what did your mother do here in Los Angeles?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, she ran the store. My father had a drygoods store, first on Temple Street, then they moved to Boyle Heights, in 1922. And they established a very successful business. My brothers and sisters worked there after school. They didn’t go beyond high school… I was the only one of the five who went to a university. But the brothers and sisters all worked in the store with my mother. My father died in 1923, so my mother ran the store, with the family.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So your mother was left with some very young children.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes. Didn’t seem to faze her because she managed the kids, everything. By 1923, when my father died, my older sister must have been 17. The next sister was a couple years younger. My older brother then was near 14 and in 1923 I was 13. So they were old enough to work in the store, so all four, even my younger brother, the four–two brothers and two sisters–worked in the store with my mother. They didn’t pursue other interests. It was a family kind of store, and they had a tremendous business going there. Boyle Heights had a widely varied population, mostly Jewish. But there were Spanish, Japanese, Gypsies, Russians, blacks.


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I wrote a dissertation about life in the Brooklyn Avenue environment and the herring barrels, the open stores. It gives an insight into the kind of life we had and also is in response to an article that Art Seidenbaum, who used to write a column for the Times… [Now deceased.–JULIUS SHULMAN] Art had written an essay about the need for a new town to take care of Los Angeles’s burgeoning population, and I in response said “No, that isn’t necessarily the answer, because we have integration of ethnic groups on Brooklyn Avenue. I wrote about how on Brooklyn Avenue you would see gypsies with their multi-layered skirts with large families with numerous children coming into the stores. There were also Japanese, Mexicans, Germans, Russians. Many “white” Russians (refugees from the revolution of 1917) lived down in the East First Street area near the L.A. River west of Boyle Avenue.

I used to work in the store on weekends and holidays to help the folks, because they needed a lot of help in those days. And this is how it all began economically. We lived two blocks away up in a nice old 1906 redwood house that my folks had purchased.

Our mother and father always purchased their own homes, and that’s a family trait. Even to this day, we all have our own homes. My mother used to admonish us: “Never, never give up the opportunity to buy or build a house. And pay for it as quickly as possible.” I paid our mortgage in seven years on my own house, which was built in the 1949-50 period. Because I never forgot. My mother always used to say, “Be in your own business.” Also as with her feelings about home ownership, she always used to admonish us, “Never, never go into a business partnership with anyone.”

She never had any formal education. When she came here from Russia, she must have been 13 or 14 years old. My father was not much older. But they met in Brooklyn and got married there and raised a family. And that was it. They had a candy store at the beginning in Brooklyn for a short time. Then they moved to Connecticut. Apparently they didn’t have much joy or friendship with the rest of their families, so they gave that up and got away.

We always had our own homes, and my mother, besides taking care of the store, with my brothers and sisters, who really managed it very well, but she would always go home and do the cooking. And the store was open till late at night. It wasn’t one of those 9 to 5 businesses. It was a neighborhood store; you don’t close at five o’clock. You stay open till eleven o’clock at night.

And the brothers and sisters were very compatible, and they shared the hours and the work, and my mother would be home cooking, preparing meals, and the brothers and sisters would come home–I was going to UCLA by this time–a couple at a time, have a meal, go back to the store. And my mother would do the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry whenever, wax the glistening hardwood floors on her hands and knees, and then come back to the store, and go to work.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Maybe people had more energy in those days.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Not energy, no, not so much energy as–and this can be attributed to how people live and work today–they were ambitious, strong, capable, and they didn’t watch the clock. They watched the store.

And that was the secret of the family’s success! By 1928 I graduated high school, and I decided to go on the university. I entered UCLA in September 1929, the first class on the Westwood campus.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: What high school did you attend?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Roosevelt High School, and that’s in Boyle Heights. I graduated there in June 1928. I went to UCLA in September of ’29. I didn’t enter UCLA in September ’28 because I waited a year. I remember purchasing my first car. It was a 1923 Model-T Ford. Cost me thirty-eight dollars. I remember it so vividly. And during that year I was already active in the Boy Scouts, camping and hiking. I spent considerable time in the activity, aside from weekends helping the folks in the store, becoming indoctrinated in outdoor living.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Can you recall an interest, an early interest in photography, or…

JULIUS SHULMAN: No. What happened in my photography experience began briefly in 1927, when I was in the eleventh grade in high school. We had a choice of a course in art appreciation for a semester or, then, what was one of the first photography classes in the United States. In high school, we were given the opportunity to have a course in photography.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s interesting, I’ll say.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Very unusual. So I enrolled in that class. The family in those days had an Eastman Box Camera.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Everyone had Kodak box cameras. It wasn’t called a Kodak; it was just called “Eastman Box Camera.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: And so for the class we had assignments to take pictures around… We were near Hollenbeck Park, which is a few blocks away from Roosevelt High School. We used to go there for assignments and take pictures of the lake area and a beautiful old wooden bridge. I did well with the box camera, and found that I was able to take care of the assignments and got very good training in how to develop roll film in the darkroom and make prints. Then one of the assignments, which was very important, to photograph events at the southern California high school final track meet at the Coliseum. This was in May 1927, and the assignment from the teacher was to take a picture of a track meet action. He warned us, “You can’t photograph action with your Brownie box cameras. If any of you have a chance to get or borrow a news type of camera, which has higher speeds to stop the action of sports, try to get that, because you can’t do much with a Brownie.” So anyhow, I went to the track meet, and found I was able to get a location where the high hurdle races were being set up, up and above the tunnel where the track meet still is run from today. The hurdle races start from under the tunnel and run out over the hurdles towards the east end of the coliseum. And I set the camera there, after observing the attendants setting up the hurdles for the race. I said to myself, “Gee, that looks good in the viewer of the camera.” When the race started I took a picture as the hurdlers came over the first hurdle. Now I found that negative here in my files…


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TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s exciting.

JULIUS SHULMAN: …and I made an eight by ten print of it; 1927, and it’s a beautiful photograph!


JULIUS SHULMAN: Had a good eight by ten glossy made in the school lab, and I got an A in the course! The photography teacher was astounded. Of course when you take a picture in action with the action going away from you or towards you, it’s not as blurred as when it’s going across your field.


JULIUS SHULMAN: So it turned out that I had a very successful picture of the hurdlers as they came over the first hurdle below my vantage position.

Angeles Magazine did an essay on my life and experiences in the March 1990 issue. Having on file the original 1927 negative, I gave them a new glossy, which was published with more current work. I never ever dreamed of being a photographer. Matter of fact, I didn’t get a Vest Pocket Kodak camera, with which I started my serious photography, until 1933 or ’32–five years, six years later–and that was just by accident. Somebody gave me the camera–for a birthday or something. I didn’t have anything to do with photography, after 1927 or ’28 when I went to the university. Or when I went hiking and camping I didn’t think of taking pictures in those days–until 1932 or ’33 when I began to take pictures with my Vest Pocket camera. I still have many of those pictures. Some were printed in the above issue on the Angeles Magazine.

Then ’34 to ’36 I was up in Berkeley for two years. ‘Cause a friend of mine was getting his master’s degree and he knew I was bumming around at UCLA after two weeks in their engineering class where I was enrolled. You see, I was a ham radio operator in the twenties, from 1926. I was interested in electrical-technical things, so I thought, well, at UCLA I’d enroll in electrical engineering, which was the closest thing… Of course at that time electronics hadn’t been “discovered.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: No one knew anything about the technique of refined electronic work of any kind. We had electrical engineers, period! And some semblance of interest in radio. So after two weeks at UCLA in the engineering school, I dropped out. Then the ensuing years I wandered around UCLA, auditing courses. I wasn’t enrolled for a major because I didn’t know what I wanted to be.

So after those years, my friend said, “Look, you’re not doing anything. Why don’t you come up to Berkeley with me and get an apartment. You can live off the land as easily there as you do here.” It turned out that I did go to Berkeley and started taking pictures of buildings around the campus.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Now that’s interesting.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I still have a file of those. I have all my negatives. And I used to take portraits of students they’d send home to their folks. And I would frame the pictures of the campus buildings and sell them at the bookstores, and department stores in Oakland, Berkeley.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So was it an interest in architecture, or what?

JULIUS SHULMAN: No, I hadn’t even met an architect–not until 1936 when I met Neutra.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: They were just nice buildings.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah, the old-time buildings on the campus.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And here I was roaming around taking snapshots of the buildings. The Campanile at Berkeley I shot from the [Hearst–Ed.] Mining Building arched windows, and the Daily Bruin newspaper published it full page one time. They made a remark in the editorial that here’s a photograph taken by one of our students that no one had ever in the history of the campus had ever taken of the Campanile before, framing the picture–I’ve got it here in the stack somewheres–framing the picture with the Mining Building curved window.

It was also published in the Angeles story. The point is that this started me in photography in a strange way. I had taken landscapes and scenic pictures–on camping and hiking trips which ensued–but architecture was an unknown subject. My Berkeley campus buildings photographs were curiously coincidental to my accidental meeting with Neutra in March 1936.

At the end of February 1936, I thought, “I’ve had enough; I’ll go back home.” The family missed me, and I missed the family. I decided to return to L.A. I had had enough as an academic drifter!

A couple weeks after I came home, my oldest sister, who had a drugstore near where the Richard Neutras live, on Silver Lake Boulevard, introduced me to a new draftsman, who had come from Washington, D.C., and was working for Neutra. Mrs. Neutra had asked my sister, “Did you have an extra room or something where this fellow could live?” So my sister did have this space in her house, near the Neutras. She introduced me to this young man one time, feeling that we would have a lot of common interests. I had never met an architect before in my life. He said to me one Sunday, one day, “I’m gonna visit one of the new houses that Mr. Neutra’s finishing… Turns out to be right down here on Fairfax and Hollywood Boulevard, just a couple of miles from where we are now. The Neutra Kun House.

And I met him, or drove with him, to the house, and while he was inside inspecting, whatever–I didn’t know what that meant–but he was inspecting the finishing part of the house–it was just being completed–and I took snapshots with my Vest Pocket Kodak camera–five or six pictures. I made eight by ten prints that week and gave them to my friend. On Saturday, March 5, I got a call from him. He said, “Mr. Neutra has seen the pictures. He liked them. He’d like to purchase them from you,” and said that he would like to meet me. So I drove to Silver Lake, met Mr. Neutra, and he asked me who and what I was. Of course I was nothing ’cause I hadn’t any ideas of being a photographer.

He was, as I say, the first architect I’d ever met. And those pictures, by the way, of the Kun House, are still being published and were published. They were used in Neutra’s books, and I still get calls from publications for that house. The same Vest Pocket Kodak pictures, I still have the negatives on file.

And at that time Raphael Soriano, who was just beginning his work–and this was in March 1936–was doing his first house, the Lipetz House, up on the hill above Silver Lake’s south end, as Neutras pointed out. Neutra said, pointing up at the hill above the lake, at the south end of the lake, “Why don’t you drive up there and meet Soriano, who is there every day supervising the construction of the house?” I drove up that afternoon, met Soriano for the first time. We became good friends. And strange, we started our respective careers that same year. And I did pictures of the house when it was completed.

Also Neutra gave me other assignments to photograph in the ensuing months. Neutra introduced me to other architects who were active in the post-depression years–Gregory Ain, Rudolf Schindler, J. R. Davidson, Harwell Harris. The early pioneers were all beginning, and here I was with my Vest Pocket Kodak.


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TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So what was that first architect’s name, who introduced you to Neutra?

JULIUS SHULMAN: This is a young draftsman, I never remembered his name. I wish I did. I may have some reference somewheres. Somehow it slipped my mind. I may have it in reference somewheres.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Do you recall what your impressions of Neutra were at that time?

JULIUS SHULMAN: None whatsoever.


JULIUS SHULMAN: He was just a person. And architecture didn’t mean anything to me. And yet the strange thing is that–and this was apparently exposed in my first pictures on the campus, at Berkeley–they were good pictures. I was able to identify with composition. And my compositions of my landscape pictures, prior to going to Berkeley, my early landscapes… I have one which was shown on an NBC program. They had a series of programs interviewing photographers not too long ago. And in that period of time, I brought down a group of my photographs to the studio, NBC, and we laid them all out on a large table, and I was interviewed, and the commentator… What’s his name? He was the man in charge, the host on the Groucho Marx show. I always forget his name, but it’s not important now. But he picked up a picture from the group lying there, and it was a landscape I had done in 1933 or ’34 in Berkeley of a windswept tree up on the hills, up in the hills of the little town of Lafayette, which is on the back side of Berkeley. And he pointed to that landscape, that tree picture, and said, “Photographers don’t like to show their old work because they feel they can always do better in later years. Now here’s a photograph…” He turned it over, and it said 1933, Lafayette, California, and so on. He asked me how I felt about this picture. “If you went back there today, could you do it better, since this was taken apparently with your Vest Pocket Kodak?” And I exclaimed, loudly I remember, I said, “Oh, no! This is a magnificent photograph!”


JULIUS SHULMAN: “This is a perfect photograph! And if I went back with an eight by ten camera, or a four by five view camera, I could never have done it as well as I did then.” “It’s not the camera,” I remember exclaiming, “it’s the composition.” And I pointed out how the windswept tree, as it was leaning over, the tip of the tree, the most remote area of the tree, was hanging down close to the ground, but it seemed to be pointing to a curved row of trees in an orchard, way in the distance, and it made a perfect “S” curve in the composition. And I said, “There’s nothing you could change about this picture.” And I remember my wife afterwards… She was sitting in the control room, and the operators there were, they were watching this on the monitor screens, and when I exclaimed to the commentator about how perfect this picture was, they said to my wife, the operators, they said, “My God, your husband’s very modest, isn’t he?” [laughter] But they admitted it was a good picture.

Well anyhow, the point is it shows that I must have had a built-in facility for composition. It shows in all my landscape pictures, all my personal pictures, everything I took. And when I got into architecture, I was able to define design statements. And as I look at any of my old photographs, they possess some quality which I pursued in a natural way in my architectural photography. And I’m very proud of some of those photographs, because no matter where you see any of my works, and I demonstrate this to my students all the time, that the secret of photography is composition. Assembling–identifying to begin with–and then assembling these statements, these thoughts, in your mind without the camera. Matter of fact, I don’t allow cameras to be used in some of my seminars, at least for the first day or half-day discussion. I say, “Let’s learn how to take pictures without a camera. And let’s learn to identify–whatever we’re photographing, whether it’s a landscape or a building or an interior–let’s look first and see how we identify ourselves with the object.” Then when we take out the camera, we’ve assembled these design thoughts in our mind and we’ve put together the composition, showing all four sides, all four edges of the camera view, possessing the elements of what we want to photograph.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: You speak as if you implicitly understood design in architecture though, so my curiosity is, was it in just hanging around with Neutra and Soriano, people like that? How did you pick up…

JULIUS SHULMAN: No, I didn’t hang around with these men!

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, but they sent you out to do some photographs.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, that’s just it. Because here I had never met an architect before, yet when I look at my 1936 pictures of the Neutra Kun House, they are no different than anything I would do today. If I went back to the house, down the hill here, with my four by five camera–or whatever camera–and took new pictures, I couldn’t have got better compositions.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s really _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: So in other words, I had been blessed with an innate, a built-in, quality of design composition–of composition, not just design composition. So when I went out to photograph… Like the earliest pictures I did… The Soriano Lipetz House was completed not much longer after I met Soriano, and I remember the first pictures, which we still use. They were good. They’re very adequate, and they really told the story of Soriano’s work.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I guess what I’m getting at is this idea of your ability also to make sense of design. You bring it back to…

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s a mystery.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah. You bring it back to composition, but others of us who have viewed your photographs wonder about your sensibility about design. Because your photographs often are very telling. They are quite descriptive about the design itself.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I don’t know.


JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s puzzling to me. It’s been on my mind forever.


JULIUS SHULMAN: After working for 54 years–’36–this is my 54th year in architecture, and all my pictures–wherever I go, whether new or old pictures–they’re good. And I say it publicly and very explicitly.

A picture of a hotel in Hawaii. What prompted me to drive across the bay–that’s the Kona Surf Hotel [Big Island, Hawaii–Ed.]–and I had looked from the hotel across the bay, from the hotel, and I saw this tree, and the water, and I thought, “Hey! Let’s go across there and look at the hotel from the other side of the bay.” And here’s a magazine, a trade magazine, Hotel-Motel News, and the editorial comment about my pictures. And the editor wrote, “This month’s cover photograph of the Kona Surf Hotel was selected to illustrate a point we feel too many hotel owners have ignored in developing their property.” He said, “No amount of advertising could secure the kind of exposure generated by the top-quality photograph printed, provided by the Kona Surf and Intra-Island Resorts Company. This is the point we’d like to make. If a hotel–this is a hotel magazine, so they’re stressing hotels–or resort owner developer is willing to spend the relatively small amount of money to obtain top-quality photographs of his property, those photographs will return to his investment several times over in increased publicity and exposure to his property.” Then he goes to say, “The Kona Surf people commissioned renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman of Los Angeles and flew him to the islands for a five-day shooting trip. The fruits of their efforts are seen on the cover and at the top of this page. Rather than stark mediocre photography, they received art, which not only shows what the property looks like, but captures a mood which can be easily promoted and appeals to magazine and newspaper editors as a high-quality illustration.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: But anyhow, he goes on and on, talks more about my photography. The point I’m making is I did this many times, like in this 1947 photograph of the Neutra Kaufman House in Palm Springs, which is standing here. It’s a twilight picture, which is a 45-minute exposure. I had been doing photographs with Neutra at the house, and towards evening, as the sun was setting, I noticed, looking out to the eastern desert, there was a beautiful glow in the sky, and I said to Mr. Neutra, “Just a moment. I want to go outside and look at the house from the eastern side of the property.” I looked at the house and I thought, “My God! Look at the twilight developing, and look at the mountains, and the scene which was being created by the changing light!” So I quickly ran into the house, against the will of Neutra, because Neutra was insistent that we continue working, because he wanted to do more interiors in the house. So I said, “No, Richard, we can’t do that. That sky is beautiful, the mountains are beautiful, and the light glowing inside, the exposure values are just right.” So I ran out with my camera and my film bag, and I set up the camera, and out of this came this photograph. And I had a shutter which didn’t have to be cocked. You can open and close this shutter at will, expose two or three seconds at a time, and then run into the house and turn on lights, turn off lights, and built, kept, like building blocks, kept building my exposure for this scene. And out of this came this photograph. Now the point I’m making is I didn’t know what I was doing.


JULIUS SHULMAN: All I knew was it was a beautiful thing, and I was going to try to capture the elements of this design and the mood of the mountains, the twilight, the magic. It turns out this is one of the two most widely published architectural photographs in the world.


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[Tape 1, side B]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Let’s go back, if we might, to the pre-World War II years, once again. In looking at this book, The Photography of Architecture and Design, I read one of the bits that you wrote that says that “Those days”–pre-World War II–“possessed the great secret–time–of which we seemed to have plenty–or at least enough for a little longer to look at ourselves and our work.” You go on to talk of some of the architects. I’m interested in this notion–you’ve brought it up already once–about the sense of time in life and how that was different, and I’m wondering if some of your consciousness then of taking photographs and the competence you gain also has to do with the fact that the pace of work and the time was different. Perhaps you can tell me a little bit about that. Do you feel that there was a possibility of a greater self-consciousness in one’s work at that time because there wasn’t a rush? Or people didn’t expect things to happen yesterday?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, now, let’s go back to 1927, ’28, in high school. Roosevelt High School had a four-story building. I imagine it still has. Our physics class was on the fourth floor and my seat was by a window looking north towards the San Gabriel Mountains. And in those days they hadn’t discovered smog and I used to do a lot of hiking, as I mentioned before, and from the window I could identify all the mountains I had been to the top of.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And they were beautiful, the “purple mountains majesty,” from a song by the same name. [The words “purple mountain majesties” also are found in “America, the Beautiful,” words by Katherine Lee Bates, melody by Samuel A. Ward–Ed.]. You could feel that. Now I remember Douglas Caby. He was a physics teacher. He would occasionally call over to me and say, “Julius, if you could tear yourself away from looking at the mountains”–because he knew of my hiking all that–“I’d like to have you

answer the question that I just asked the class.” [laughs] Of course I didn’t hear the question; I was busy daydreaming. This was inherent in my personality from day one. I was always meditating, if you will. I was always thinking of other things, quietly, peacefully. The beauty of nature. I was looking at the mountains. I could identify all… I’ve been hiking all my life, and I think I’ve hiked to the top of every mountain in the San Gabriel range.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh my, that’s great.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Including the San Bernardino Mountains. There’s not a mountain peak that I don’t know. And I used to hike alone most of the time because there weren’t many people who were interested as much as I was. I would roll up a blanket pack and throw some canned beans in a rucksack–we didn’t have rucksacks–old army knapsacks in those days.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And I would take off and take the Red Car (the Pacific Electric) from Brooklyn Avenue from Boyle Heights and the Red Car went to Sierra Madre, and then I’d hike up Mount Wilson trail and then from there hike to the back country.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I was just on that Wilson trail last Sunday.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Oh, all right.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Seven or eight miles of it. [laughs]

JULIUS SHULMAN: All right, so that’s my life.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s wonderful.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And then, the point I’m making from there on in… I was married in 1937, the year after I did that Neutra essay [_____________–Ed.], and in those days I had my Kodak camera. I didn’t get the view camera until ’37 or ’38, the bigger camera. But in those days we had a group of friends with whom we used to go camping and hiking a lot, and every holiday… We’d called ourselves, loosely knit organization, The Mountaineers [no relation to the present-day organization–JULIUS SHULMAN], and we would go to Death Valley, or Yosemite, or Sequoia, or wherever the group of us would decide, and would go camping for a long holiday weekend. Three, four, maybe four and a half days, or whatever. And most of the people were professionals. They could get away. I worked at my darkroom at home–such work as I had. My income was anywheres from one to two hundred dollars a month. Our rent was twenty-five dollars a month for a four-room flat. Didn’t cost anything to live. And if we had a chance to go on a trip next weekend with our friends, my wife and I thought nothing of taking off. We had an Oldsmobile–let’s see, 1939, we had a 1939 Oldsmobile sedan. Before that I had a 1932 DeSoto coupe. And we used to take off and go hiking and camping. Drive the car to Mt. Whitney, for example, and go to Whitney Portal and hike up to the top of Mt. Whitney, or something.

I remember in 1939, in September, we were camping out at Whitney Portal, and I just walked over to the car, turned on the radio, just by chance. I heard the news that Hitler had invaded Poland, September of ’39. The beginning of World War II for us.

So we had time. No inclination to hurry. What few assignments I had–one or two a week maybe–I brought the negatives home, processed them, made the prints, and dried them and delivered them, and went on to another assignment. But I have my record book here, which I found recently, my book from 1940 or 1939, I think. One year, about that time of the book, I made a hundred and _____-five dollars in that month. Which was a lot of money. [Tape noise obscured some of the words beginning about here–Trans.]


JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah. So anyhow, the point is that I never was in a hurry. Money was not of the essence of existence, and apparently having the time not to hurry, not having other things to go to, to do, no other commitments… I remember photographing a house with Gregory Ain one time. Brand new house. Who had landscape architects in those days? Who had money to provide any trees or any shrubs? So Gregory would always say, “Let’s go put some geranium shoots, cuttings, into the ground, especially those with blossoms.” These were all black and white photography, of course, in those days. So we would cut branches and stick them in the ground, and make them look like trees or shrubs. But we had all day! And we’d take ten or twelve pictures in the day–with my view camera or my Vest Pocket camera, whichever I was using at the time–and that’s it. You weren’t thinking about how much it would cost. I didn’t charge a per-photograph fee to the architects. Ten or twelve dollars, fifteen dollars, for the days’ work. Money was nothing. Life was simple.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: A different sense of time, and a different sense of money.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah, that’s right. So I remember, for example, living a half block away from a Safeway market on Pickford Street near Washington and La Brea, and my wife would say to me, “Julius, why don’t you go to the store and get a few things I need.” So I would take fifty cents. Silver half dollar. I wish we had ’em now. [laughter] And I’d go to the store and get a quart of milk for a dime, half a dozen eggs for a dime, a loaf of bread for a dime, and a quarter pound of butter. Forty cents, and I’d get ten cents change.





JULIUS SHULMAN: And there’s enough material to provide the basis for a good lunch. Forty cents. [laughs] We had lunch the other day at the Santa Barbara Biltmore. We went Sunday for brunch and never dreamed what they charged. We got the check. Brunch for two of us cost seventy-seven dollars!


JULIUS SHULMAN: For brunch for two people! We’ll never go back there again.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s extraordinary. Much too much.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Way out of line. An abundance of food and whatever. Obscene! All that waste of food. Five or six serving stations, different people working there, where you got your entrees. Plus you helped yourself with the other things. It was kind of overabundant. It left us with a very bad taste.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Never realized what a waste there! Well anyhow, that’s another reason for understanding values, because the people working there serving probably received the minimum wage. Four dollars, maybe four and a half dollars an hour–if that much.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And I thought, as we were taking–they have huge mounds of shrimp, beautiful large shrimp–and while we were helping ourselves to this shrimp, a fellow came out with a container, a large bowl, of new shrimp to replenish the supply, Hispanic fellow. You can just see he was a minimum-salary kind of guy, and he was dumping those shrimp out onto the tray where we were getting the serving, and I remarked to my wife, I said, “Olga, look at this poor guy dumping this shrimp out, and we’re paying”–at that time I didn’t know, but it turned out we were paying an exorbitant amount of money–“how much of that money that we’re paying went to him? Nothing.”

So in other words, this is the way life goes. This man has to count his pennies. We didn’t in our early years, because we got forty cents worth of staples at Safeway. And twenty-five dollars a month rent for a four-room flat. So it didn’t take much to live, and a hundred and seventy-five dollars or whatever I made a month at that time was a lot of money.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: You could still put money in the bank even. [chuckles]

JULIUS SHULMAN: We did, we did. Matter of fact, one year… I got in the army October 1943.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I was going to ask you about that.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And prior to that month, I was busy. Business was very good.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Business was good here in L.A.?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes! In photography and architecture. And that month I was photographing for Arts and Architecture magazine the synthetic rubber plants on the south end of L.A., where they manufactured all the ingredients which produced synthetic rubber for the war effort. And I was taking photographs for the building contractors, who were building these projects. The Shell Company was making the butadiene, which was one of the components of synthetic rubber. The Dow Chemical Company had another plant adjacent, where they manufactured the chemicals that went into the production, and then Goodyear or U.S. Royal, U.S. Rubber Company, which produced and combined the synthetics which went into manufacture of tires. So I had these three clients, and that last month, in September of 1943, I made three hundred and thirty dollars!


JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s a fortune. Not saying of course I included the cost of the processing and making the prints in that three hundred thirty, in the cost of the assignment. But the point is I didn’t know any better. The customary thing was to charge extra for prints. I didn’t do that. If I give the architect a bill for ten dollars, I gave them the prints without any additional charges. Who charged mileage or expenses? I worked out of home, it’s me, it was just nothing. Of course in those days photography expenses were very minor.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But life was easy. And then when I went into the army, of course, I spent two years in an army hospital doing medical photography, surgical photography.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And it was another world. And then all the time that I was gone, the Museum of Modern Art in New York was building up its archives of contemporary architecture. And my archives at that time were consisting of the early work of Neutra and Schindler and the early architects I mentioned before. And as a result, since my wife was home, and she had the negatives–we had a good file system–she kept sending the negatives to a friend who had a darkroom and a full finishing place, and he made the glossy prints. And she would mail the pictures to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and we’ve gotten an income from those photographs. And while I was in the army, she lived at her mother’s house, and so we had no expenses, so we made money even while I was in the army. Because as a private the first part of my army career, I was getting… What was the army pay for a private? Thirty-two dollars a month, I think.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And then I became a sergeant after that. And I think my salary was maybe forty dollars a month, so on. So whatever money I made I sent home. So we made money out of our photography career even in those years. [chuckles]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s quite extraordinary.

JULIUS SHULMAN: But you see, the main thing is life was easy. I was always quietly composed in my pursuit, always lived at home, worked at home–as I do now. Nothing is changed. I’m not in a hurry. Never have been. I’ve never pushed. I drive the same way when I’m on a highway or a street. I’m the slowest car on the road. Like when we went to Santa Barbara last Sunday. Took the back road by way of Highway 118, Simi Freeway, to Fillmore, Santa Paula, two-lane, the old-fashioned roads from way back, even though I’m driving a Volvo which is a high-speed powerful car. I was cruising along, the slowest car on the road on the Simi Freeway. I was going sixty miles an hour. Cars were passing me up as if I was standing still.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But I was enjoying the road, the drive.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, plus it’s a…

JULIUS SHULMAN: And it’s a beautiful feeling, to be composed in your own life , in your own mind. To be able to set your own pace.


JULIUS SHULMAN: No one’s ever pushed me. Deadlines. Never had deadlines.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, that’s good.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes. So anyhow that’s my life. And that is what helped me in my work, too, so much, because I was not in a hurry. I remember one of the major assignments I did after the post-war years. I was photographing the Bullock’s Pasadena store that Wurdeman and Welton Becket had designed. Their biggest project too, because prior to that time they had been doing residential projects–Pennsylvania Dutch houses in Beverly Hills. And then suddenly they got this huge commission to do the Bullock’s Pasadena, and I was given the assignment to photograph that when it was complete. I remember going there on Sundays–for the exteriors especially–stopping the car, taking out my four-by-five camera… I recount this experience to photographers and students even today. How do you start photographing a building? Where do you establish your point of interest? The focal point of the composition of the design of a building–whether it’s a home or a department-store complex? And I remember getting out of the car and looking at the building. I didn’t walk around with the camera. Some people do even today, but I never did that. I just simply looked around, found compositions which put together the elements–as I said at the beginning of this conversation–and out of it came my photographs. And then we went back to do interior photographs on Sundays. I had an assistant work with me on the interiors. We brought in our lights, and we spent all Sundays. The store was empty, all by ourselves. The maintenance people, the security people opened things up for us, turned on power and lights whenever we needed it. No hurry. We did a hundred and fifty photographs of that store, because they had a public relations firm handling their work, and they sent photographs to every trade magazine in the country: women’s wear, men’s wear, household utility equipment. Every trade magazine that published things on stores. And then the architectural magazines as well made extensive coverage of the Bullock’s. Of course it was a unique store. Post-war department stores were few and far between in those days. And this was one of the best, one of the few ever done in those early years. But the pictures turned out to be very successful and Wurdeman and Becket became very well known throughout the country and, of course, the firm became one of the most largest, prominent architectural firms in the world in the succeeding years. And, as they mentioned in this hotel magazine, good photography helps, you see.


JULIUS SHULMAN: So there’s a statement that comes out from this work. I don’t think that photographers today–and architects–are as conscious of photography values as I was in the early years. And the architects too learned in the early years, especially when their work became published. I got requests from magazines. This magazine I just showed you, Baumeister, from Munich, Germany, that company, who, incidentally, used my photographs in the 1940s. And this girl who called me, she wasn’t even born in 1940.


JULIUS SHULMAN: When I told her on the phone, “Oh, I remember your firm. We did photographs for the Calway Publishing Company, that published the Baumeister–architectural building master is what the name means–she said, “1940 or ’41, my God, I wasn’t even born.” Which was a strange thing.

But the point I’m making is that my photography from day one was consistent with identifying the elements of architecture. I wasn’t thinking, as I did in succeeding years, of the art forms or the art elements of photography, as I mentioned in my book. I said the responsibility of the photographer is to identify the design components of a structure, to identify with the architect the purpose of the structure, of his design. Then in the course of providing and producing these design statements, if you could come out with an art-like statement, for the purpose of intriguing and enticing the art directors of a magazine, so they get the pictures on a cover perhaps, then you have produced a double-barreled, a double-bladed, a double-edged sword to attack the promotion process of architectural publicity. And this is what I try to state in the book about the purpose of architectural photography. And the picture on the cover, for example, the picture of the Lever House in New York, by Skidmore Owings Merrill, I took that photograph on my own when I was in New York. I was traveling around the country photographing an essay for a story on architectural environmental design influence, and when I set up my camera to photograph the Lever House, I noticed the Seagram Building, which was across the street, and I went across the street and framed the Lever House with the structural columns of the Seagram Building. I had received a request about that time from Arquitectur d’, an architectural magazine in France, in Paris. They were doing a story on American architecture. They happened to ask me if I happened to have a picture of the Lever House. And of course I had that in color as well as black and white. I sent that picture that’s on the cover of that particular issue of the American architectural story they did, and then somebody brought in the magazine to the Skidmore Owings and Merrill offices in New York, and waved the magazine in front of the PR, public relations, people and the architects working on the floor there, and they were overwhelmed. The PR woman called me on the phone, and she said, “Mr. Shulman, when did you take that photograph? We have never seen such a picture of Lever House ever before, and no one ever photographed it in respect to its role in the siting of the building, in relationship to the Seagram Building across the street.” After all, the Seagram is a very famous building too, by Mies van der Rohe and Phillip Johnson. So here is a picture which depicted a building in relationship to its neighbors, which developed a statement of design and environment. Now why did I do that? Not how, but why? To this day, it’s still a mystery.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I’ve always been able to associate environment–the site–with my architecture.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And that’s very significant. It comes out in the story that you were telling about the Kaufman House.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah, exactly.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And in that story you also talk about you’re gaining technical expertise, because you said you were going back and forth trying to work on the lighting and _____ this long time exposure.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Ah, yeah, that’s right. But on that Neutra picture, I took one negative. By that time it was dark, and by that time Neutra was pulling me away. He said, “Come on, let’s go, Shulman, let’s go. We’ve gotta finish the interiors.” We hadn’t had supper yet. Neutra never paid attention to eating.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: [chuckles] Really? So his sense of time was a little different from yours.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah, yeah. He was urgent. And Mrs. Neutra used to tell me all the time, “Richard hasn’t got time to eat.” He died young, in his sixties or early seventies maybe. Of course he was pushing, driving, driving.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That photograph in particular is a very beautiful photograph artistically. A few minutes ago, you said you weren’t perhaps aware of creating an

art-type photograph, yet in your struggle to do something technically _____ _____ produce something that was beautiful and artistic.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I did see the mountains.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: You did see the mountains or something like this.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Of course I had been to the top of Mt. San Jacinto several times in those years, and I knew the beauty of the mountains from the top down. But to see the mountain range at twilight with the interlocking, interweaving, of the ranges, one on another, that’s what caused me to want to photograph this house under those circumstances. So it all came together: my background of nature involved. And the respect for nature. And all this comes together. Neutra did a book called Mystery and Realities of the Site, and much of this editing material he used in the book came from our photographs, where I identify his buildings with the site, and all of a sudden he’d say, “Hey, that’s a good subject for a book.” Published a rather nice little booklet.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So it was actually your sensitivity to his work and the site that was…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Which was infused, that’s right.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, or gave him the idea.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It was infused into his concern and his identification of his own architecture.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Exactly. So you showed him a way of seeing it, perhaps in a way he hadn’t seen it before.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes, that’s what probably happened. Now this Neutra picture is perhaps one of the few ever shown of this house.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Very few of the Neutra house–the Kaufman House–pictures were ever shown, other than this photograph.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, and that one is a lasting image.

JULIUS SHULMAN: That’s right.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: It’s recognizable and…

JULIUS SHULMAN: And it told the story. This is what architecture is all about. This photograph has appeared in every architectural magazine in the world ever published since ’47, and it’s appeared in every book on architecture. I don’t think any book that we have around here fails to show this picture.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s extraordinary.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Everybody publishes it. And it points the need–which is lacking today, I think, and I try to impress architects to learn a little bit about photography so they can impress their new young photographers to understand the need, the significance of careful design, of compositions. And I’ve learned a lot too from architects. I remember from Neutra. He was always insisting that we photograph his buildings before they were complete, before they were landscaped. But he was always bringing loads of branches, mostly eucalyptus. It’s a joke today among many of the older architects who’ve been around for year who used to be apprentices for Neutra. I’d see them at conventions or meetings or seminars, and they’d say, “Hey, Julius, I remember we used to hold branches for you.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: [Edward–Ed.] Killingsworth and Peter Kamnitzer and some of the early architects. Ray Kappe. All of these people worked for Neutra one time or another in their careers, and Neutra would come with a carload of branches and strew them on the ground, have one of his people hold some branches overhead. And one of the pictures I remember I have Mrs. Neutra’s wrist and hand holding a branch on the edge of the negative. [laughter] Without the branches the houses would be naked!


JULIUS SHULMAN: But I learned about the values. We did an assignment in later years for Good Housekeeping magazine, one of Cliff May’s low-cost $12,000 tract houses, out El Monte, Covina, somewheres. Good Housekeeping had arranged with Cliff May for us to take pictures of this particular house. It was supposed to have been ready. We got out there that morning. There wasn’t a stick of landscaping. Not a shrub.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And it was the deadline, in this case. Somebody in the house told us, “There’s a nursery down the road here.” So I went to the nursery and rented some canned plants–five gallon cans of roses and geraniums, whatever they had in bloom–and set them up in front of the house and framed the picture with these plants, and we broke off a branch from a walnut tree that was growing nearby and fastened the branches to a lightstand so we could frame the picture with an arching branch to look like there was a tree there. And in the finished pictures, the house is perfectly landscaped.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: [laughs] That’s a good story.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Then in the patio we’d move the same “trees” and branches and plants and cans in front of the camera. We cut more branches, and made it look like the house was landscaped.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: With the consistency of landscaping, the same…

JULIUS SHULMAN: The same material–right!–the same plant. Now when I produced the pictures… I was going to New York about that time. I remember bringing them to Mary Kraft. Mary was the architectural interior editor of Good Housekeeping, and she thought the pictures were lovely, as she said, and after the story came out–at least I was wise enough to restrain myself–after the story came out, she sent me a copy of the magazine, and she said, “We’re very proud of what you did for us.” I wrote back–I shouldn’t have–I wrote back to Mary Kraft, I said, “Dear Mary. Thank you very much for the nice presentation you made of the Cliff May house. I thought I’d let you know for future reference, for photographers and architects, that if they come to a house and there’s a deadline, there’s no landscaping, this is what we did.” And I sent her a picture. My assistant took a photograph of me with my camera. It’s in my book. Yeah, it’s in the book. A picture of me with the landscaping, with the cans, the plants, showing how we framed the picture. She wrote back, angry, in her letter, “Julius, how could you! If I had known that you falsified the landscaping, we would never have published the house.”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Huh! What a surprise.

JULIUS SHULMAN: She was so pleased with the pictures, but she felt annoyed. And many of the editors then (maybe now are that way, too), but in New York, architectural editors were real square about accuracy. They wanted to identify the landscaping. For example, they wanted to identify the name of every shrub, the species of azaleas. They wanted to know everything.

We had a similar experience with House and Garden magazine in the period of time I’m describing. We went to photograph an azalea garden of a house, a very well known landscape architect, out in Pasadena. And I went and worked with Ellen Sheridan. She was one of the editors of House and Garden on the local scene at that time. We had bad weather, during the springtime when we have foggy days for weeks at a time, and we couldn’t get any sunlight. So finally when we did get out there the azaleas had died back. No more blossoms. What did we do? It turns out the species of azalea they had were mostly, or almost all white. Like we have white ones out there behind you now in garden. See the white azaleas coming out? Now, those azaleas in our pictures were created. The blossoms were created by little tufts of Kleenex. And Ellen Sheridan and I walked around the garden tearing off Kleenex and putting them carefully onto the prow of the branches, the leaves, and we restored the white “azalea” blossoms throughout the garden.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: [laughing] That’s amazing.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And when House and Garden published that picture, they talked about the white azalea blossoms. And when you publish this picture into a half-page or whatever, you can’t see whether they’re Kleenex or azalea blossoms.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But we never told them.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: You wised up on that one.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah, I never told them.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s funny that they didn’t understand.

JULIUS SHULMAN: So this is another thing about working in photography: You never take anything for granted. Your creative juices are flowing, and you’re saying, “Hey, let’s do something about this.” I could have gone to the phone.

That’s what Mary Kraft said to me, “You could have called me on the phone and told me the circumstances, and I could have maybe given you a couple more days.” In my response to her, by return mail, I said, “Well, Mary, I respected your deadline and I always meet your deadlines, and I wasn’t about to ask for a postponement.” And also I think I said that the house was open to the public about that time, and we couldn’t stop the people from coming through, and interfere with all my lighting equipment on the interiors. This way the house wasn’t quite open for the public yet, so I had it to myself, and I explained that in my letter, but she grumbled nonetheless. But I remember seeing her again in New York the next trip I was there, and I, she still remembered, and she still scolded me.

Yet the reader interest is great, because that house was a prototype that Cliff May had designed and they sold. They built 30,000 of those houses in different parts of the United States.


JULIUS SHULMAN: It was a best seller. Of course, it was a terrific value. Cliff May was a great designer. And that house was a tremendous success–not only because he instilled in the house the quality of his design philosophy, but he also had a great respect for low-cost housing nonetheless, even though his forte was always his expensive, big palatial California ranch-type houses, for which he’s still known to this day. And this house was a tremendous success. And much of it could be attributed to the story that Good Housekeeping magazine did. And Cliff May wrote her a letter of great appreciation. That still didn’t simmer her down when she saw me. [laughter] She still just wagged her finger, waved her finger at me: “You shouldn’t have done it!”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s wonderful.

JULIUS SHULMAN: She grumbled over a martini for lunch. [both chuckle]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s really funny. That’s a good story.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It is fascinating. We did this many times. Like with Richard Neutra when he did the Channel Heights wartime housing in San Pedro, for the wartime housing, shipyard workers. The houses too were not finished, but Neutra had furnished one of the interiors with his furniture–his chairs and things. And we wanted to photograph the house for Architectural Forum, and he brought branches, and one of the scenes, looking from the living room through the kitchen to the outdoors, showed a naked landscaping and houses on this cross-street under construction. He said, “Let me go hold a branch in front of the kitchen window.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: Take time out.

[Interruption in taping]

JULIUS SHULMAN: Now to continue about Neutra and the Channel Heights project, Neutra said, “I’ll go outside and I’ll hold a branch in front of the window to hide the houses across the street.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: Which he did. Now I had set the camera and a signal arrangement I had with Neutra–since the windows were closed he couldn’t hear me–he would stand there. When I waved my hand, when I pulled the slide out of the film holder and cocked the shutter, ready to go for a one-half second exposure, whatever it was, then he would sit down and hold the branch and I would click the picture. So here is the famous architect, Richard Neutra, sitting on the ground, holding a branch in front of the window.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: [laughs] If only you could have had a photograph of that.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Just then a couple workers walked by–and everyone knew him because the project had been going on for months, and he was there every day. Everyone knew the famous architect Neutra. And I could see the men looking and pointing to Neutra from across the street and laughing. “Now why in the goddamn world’s this guy sitting on his rear? The crazy architect is sitting on the ground in front of this house holding a branch.”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s quite a wonderful thing.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And what could he say?

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: He couldn’t move if he had to.

JULIUS SHULMAN: He couldn’t point to me: “He’s having a picture tooken.” [laughter] So anyhow I delight in that little story, because it points out the importance of caring. Now in the finished picture, which has been used extensively in the Channel Heights publication, you see the branch. You don’t see the unfinished buildings across the street.


JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s a fascinating thing that, to what extent he would go to produce a picture. But he was one of the few–very few–architects who knew the value, as they mention in this hotel magazine I showed you before, about the value of good photography. It’s not the cost. Because every architect I’ve ever worked for has become world-famous, because of the publicity they get. And the magazine people in New York used to tell me this all the time. I went to New York several times a year because I worked on a personal basis with every magazine. I mean every magazine that published anything about architecture interiors and exteriors. Shelter magazines as well as technical magazines. And book publishers, too. And the editors used to tell me, “Whenever a package of pictures came from you, we would all stop what we were doing and gather around the conference table and lay out the pictures.”

We had an experience… For example, I was photographing in those early years, in the fifties and sixties especially, a lot of work in the Midwest–Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, and so on. For a long time I did a lot of work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for Crites and McConnell’s architectural firm, who I knew when I was giving lectures at Iowa State University, when they were still students. And when they became architects, I began to do their work. One year I went to Cedar Rapids and photographed seven projects for Ray Crites throughout the state of Iowa. I was going to go to New York from Cedar Rapids, so I had the film processed and contact prints made by a photographer’s store who had processing lab who we could trust. He processed the pictures, and I took the contact prints to New York with me, to the Architectural Forum magazine, and met with MaryJane Lightbown, associate editor, and Doug Haskell, who was the editor. Joe Hazen was the executive director. Paul Grotz was the graphic designer and art director. We all went to lunch, and on returning to the conference room, we laid out all the pictures around the perimeter of the table. Joe Hazen came in with the group, saying, “Now, let’s see what you got from the land of the tall corn.” They were joking about cornfields in Iowa. “What else was there?” And it turns out they were so impressed with these buildings they published all seven in the Architectural Forum in the ensuing month or two.

And then after that Life magazine was doing a story–since Time and Life [Incorporated–Ed.] was publishing these magazines at the time–on the young architects and designers and professionals who were forty years old or younger who were bound to be on the road to success, and they chose Ray Crites as representative of the young architects in this country.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Mainly because they saw his works so successfully published in the Architectural Forum magazine. All based on good photography–and good architecture naturally. But good expression. You can’t define architecture without good photography. And nowadays, of course, tragically the buildings are being shown in the architectural magazines in beautiful, beautiful color, full-page blowups, and the buildings are hideous and the color is beautiful, so they publish these pictures, and that’s supposed to represent architecture.

But it’s only, I feel, a veneer. It doesn’t really show the true nature… Oh, of course, I can’t put them down entirely. Some of these buildings are striking and very relevant in terms of present-day architecture. But it’s not the truth, though. It’s not what architecture truly depicts in our society. And we have the responsibility then of producing, doing what we can with the best we can find in the existing buildings.

But I refused–and I mentioned this publicly–to photograph the post-modern architecture–of homes especially, commercial buildings, too. I just stopped working with architects. See, that was one reason why …I retired three years ago. And now I devote my time to doing my archival work and to responding to requests from all around the world. We have three more books coming out this year besides the new one that came out on steps and stairways. These are pictures which we helped assemble from all over the world, many of them my own photographs, which I had on file, pictures showing steps and stairways in all their infinite numbers of designs, shapes, and forms. And all this is coming back full circle now, with the development of an understanding of the fact that architecture wasn’t so bad in the fifties and sixties–that we’ve literally discarded and discounted what was being done. Now we’re coming back to realizing that this was a good period (the forties through the sixties, and continuing into the seventies)–perhaps the best period we ever had in our architectural development.

[Tape 2, side A]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Tape number two, Julius Shulman, and I’m Taina Rikala.

I wanted to ask you next about John Entenza and Esther McCoy. When did you first meet Entenza? What was the occasion? You’ve shown me an early issue of Arts and Architecture magazine, so I realize you were familiar with the magazine. But tell us a little bit about that association.

JULIUS SHULMAN: The outcome of my early work–actually the origin, I suppose, too–occurred when the architects with whom I was working–there weren’t many of course–in the thirties and into the forties, particularly in the early forties, late thirties… The architecture that was being produced in those days was shocking to most people. The public had never seen architecture as we knew it, the so-called International Style, the all-steel and glass–and hardly even steel in the early years, just a frame plywood and glass. Steel frame for the windows, perhaps, and open plan. It was a shock to most people when they saw it, but it made good magazine material. And magazines were constantly looking for that kind of story, because they knew it would have greater interest. So therefore, as I began the work, and architects would show their pictures to magazines, and as we looked before the early California Arts and

Architecture was a forerunner of Arts and Architecture, which was acquired by John Entenza in the early forties. And so when he obtained the magazine, I was already being published throughout the country and several European countries, also by the magazine, Arts and Architecture, the original publishers. And so he continued using my pictures. Then when the Arts and Architecture case-study house program began–which was in the middle forties–I worked closely with the advertising manager of the magazine because A and B. A, there was no money for the magazine to perform the production of the case-study program without sponsors. B, there was no money for photographs.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Either the clients would provide the wherewithal, the homeowners. As in some cases, houses by prominent architects were already planned so they relegated them to the disposition of a case-study “label” scenario. Now therefore, the sponsors of the construction, the contractors–the building materials and the equipment suppliers–had to be approached and asked if they would be willing to participate in the program. And from the very onset, I worked closely with the advertising manager of the magazine, because I felt that this was a darned good cause, a good program, and it could be run in conjunction with the pictures I was already doing with architects and others, and I arranged with Bob Cron, who was the advertising manager, and he agreed with me, “Let’s take pictures of products of these companies that could possibly be sponsors. Give them free photographs. Show them publicity. So I went up and down the state with Bob Cron, showing pictures of products and structures of houses and commercial buildings done by the proposed sponsors. And it did bear fruit, because the upshot of all this was that they were able to build quite a few of these houses. They got companies to provide equipment and material–very generously. And that, together with the clients who owned the houses, helped to produce the program, and it became very successful in its own right.

Now that’s how I worked with Entenza. One shortcoming with Entenza was that although he was willing to work on this program–it was his idea–but the shortcoming of Entenza was–and it’s understandable to me because I felt the same way–architecture as we knew it then–consisted of a flat-roofed glass box. Entenza was fixated on the so-called International Style.

That’s simplifying it. And when Entenza chose the architects to do these houses… And by the way this came out very strongly down at MOCA [Museum of Contemporary art, Los Angeles–Ed.] the other day when I was there with Paul Karlstrom and the others–Joanne Ratner, and so on. They have models of all the houses. I said, “Paul, look! All these models have flat roofs. That’s Entenza.” He didn’t select any… Of course I think Paul had asked how the architects were selected, and I think I said that the architects were selected because they were pursuing the International Style. And [Raphael–Ed.] Soriano, as an example, would never, even if you chopped his head off, do a sloping roof.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So it was Entenza’s idea of bringing ideas to Los Angeles, of promoting those European ideas in Los Angeles by selecting these very specific architects.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, wait. Let’s rephrase that, because were they really European ideas? We say, “Yes, they were International.”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, that’s a historical question.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s a reality. It is reality. Now, architecture as we knew it in the forties and thirties, we had no precedent in this country. Really. The architects who were the offshoots of Richard Neutra’s training and disciplines had been imbued by the association with Neutra into nothing but flat-roof, flat-ceiling glass boxes. Now when they got into their own practice, they pursued the same design for they knew nothing else.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, but Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t necessarily _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, that comes later, that comes later. Now, Frank Lloyd Wright’s early houses–for example the Ennis House, the so-called master bedroom–has a pitched ceiling–the only room in the house that has it. So Frank Lloyd Wright would not turn against a pitched roof–or sloping… (He had sloping ceilings.)


JULIUS SHULMAN: From time to time. But it wasn’t part of his philosophy–as Neutra’s and the International Style people pursued. Therefore the Entenza discipline was based on what he saw and knew of architecture, and it had to be relegated again to the International Style. Out of this came a series of houses, which were very widely attended by the public when they were opened, but most people were looky-lookies. They were curious. Now here’s a house [Shulman’s own–Ed.], with us. This house was built, then occupied in 1950, and we opened the house to all kind of architectural educational tours. Fund-raising. The Radcliffe College, we had two tours, 750 people.


JULIUS SHULMAN: My God, we had people coming through the house by the droves in those early years.


JULIUS SHULMAN: People would come on weekends, and on Monday morning you would think that out of all these scores and scores and scores of people coming through this house, somebody would pick up the phone and call Soriano–because he was still living down here at the time–“Mr. Soriano, we saw the Shulman house yesterday. We sure liked it. We’d like to meet you and talk to you about doing a house for us.” Not one person ever called Soriano. And the result was that we learned quickly that this kind of architecture was not of the voice of the people.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: It wasn’t a popular place to live in.

JULIUS SHULMAN: No, it wasn’t. In those years the houses were naked. They were not landscaped or furnished. Look at our living room, how alive and warm. People would come in today, they would want the house, even with a flat roof and a steel frame.

But I’ve been asked many times about the Arts and Architecture program, and this came out in discussions with Elizabeth Smith when we were first selecting the pictures. We too were asking the question. Here’s Smith and Williams, who did a model at one time, but they never built their house. They never chose any architects who stepped out of the narrow confines of Internationalism. And that was Entenza’s influence. And there was no chance of breaking away from that mold.

And I think that was one of his shortcomings. Because I would attend some of these houses when they were open to the public. I was still photographing many of them for the publication, and I just would go to the house whenever. During the weekday there weren’t too many people. But I listened to people coming through the houses, and they would be, “Ho, ho, ho,” kind of thing, laughing, and joking. “Glass box.” “Goldfish.” And they used that term. “I don’t want to live in a goldfish bowl.” That was a very prominent, prevalent term in those days for critics of modern architecture.

Now, in retrospect, I look back, I can agree heartily with some of the reactions of people. I can understand. Having lived in this house all these years, like my wife says, “Julius, you couldn’t build this, Soriano couldn’t build this house on a city street, with all this glass.” But alas he did. Several times architects built on standard 50-foot lots, most maybe–whatever size lots a person would have. And they insisted on having all-glass houses, and it’s too much glass. And then also most people didn’t have the garden space. We have a jungle way out in the back. Our garden goes for two or three hundred more feet at least in the other direction.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And then we meet the Casavetti garden, and that goes another couple acres in their direction. So we have an endless garden. Between the house garden down here and our neighbors, the Biles [Joan & Don–JULIUS SHULMAN] here, we have fifteen hundred feet of back line to our property.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, that’s extraordinary.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And behind us is empty hills.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And that’s really extraordinary, yeah.

JULIUS SHULMAN: So you can build a house like this and have a studio here like this. This is a godsend! And out of all this comes an understanding of how this kind of architecture works or doesn’t work.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, that’s a very good point.

JULIUS SHULMAN: So the program was fine, but it wasn’t fine. It didn’t work. It didn’t create–as Entenza had hoped, and everyone writes about it… They had hoped for a wave, an avalanche of new designs by these architects who were doing these case-study houses. Buff and Hensman had their own clients. They were very, very successful. But it had nothing to do with the Arts and Architecture program. Killingsworth always was successful. They didn’t build the Triad Complex concept in La Jolla area, as they had hoped to. They hoped to get builders to take land by the thousands of acres, which were available in those days, and build a whole city of this kind of architecture. Uh-uh. The public didn’t want that. Even in those days. And it’s prevalent today that new houses you see are all what? Traditionalist. Ersatz Spanish, English, French, German, Colonial. Everything but contemporary.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Once in a rare moment, you’ll see a contemporary house going up. But we’re too late now, way beyond, because everything’s too expensive. We can never have modern architecture in residential houses, again ever, in my estimation.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: On that scale, no.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Not as we know it. Unless comes a revolution and we confiscate all the land and build low-cost houses for the masses, that we have another Bolshevik Revolution. But that would not produce anything either, because that would be–the values again–infighting between designers and authorities, and how you’re going to ever recreate contemporary architecture as we’ve known it. How could anyone afford to buy acreage like we have here for a couple thousand dollars? I have a picture of Silver Lake, which was taken in the 1930s, where you could buy a lot… Here it is. You could buy a lot down there for three hundred dollars.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, my goodness. This is _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: See all the empty land?

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: This is so empty. Big blocks of…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Silver Lake is over on the far right, not far… Neutra’s house is there. Way in the distance on the far right. You can’t see it in the picture, though. But the point is, this is an example of what happened in the course of time. In those days you [couldn’t, could]… Even this house and studio cost $40,000.


JULIUS SHULMAN: In 1949, when we circulated the bids.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s a lot of money in 1949.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Sure it was. But still, for 4100, 4200 square feet.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s a big house.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s pretty scary.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: When did you meet Esther McCoy?

JULIUS SHULMAN: In the late forties. We started doing magazine stories together.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And were you introduced? Do you remember the first time you met her?

JULIUS SHULMAN: I vaguely remember, vaguely. I think she called me one time. Of course we knew of each other. And she called and mentioned that she wanted to do… She had my pictures–maybe that’s what it was–and she wanted to do a story on that particular house for one of the shelter magazines. And maybe that’s how it began. Then we did the Bradbury Building together, in the early years. We also did the story for the L.A. Times in Yucatan, on the [late–TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA] Mayan architecture. And then individual houses that the magazines would have me photograph and then Esther would be called upon to do the story. Whatever. We crossed paths so many times during those early years… Matter of fact, Esther used to come up here almost every Saturday for a few years. We would discuss and talk as we are now, and look at the pictures that we produced the previous week on the stories that she was going to publish. And then she would take the pictures with her to do the story, then send them to the magazines that had commissioned the material. So we had a liaison which was just beautiful.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: A good working relationship.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Oh, it was just nice. I remember in Yucatan, when we did that project for the Times, two weeks, it was a beautifully arranged thing. We had liaison with the people down there who had introduced us to a family which had lived in that area since World War I–the old Barbachano family–and they had two daughters who drove us around and showed us the sights and took us to the archaeological zones. God, we had a ball. They wined and dined. I remember one house. The man, by the way, made his fortune in World WarÿI growing sisal, which is the plant, the agave plant. Sisal is what is used for making tequila.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And mezcal, yeah.

JULIUS SHULMAN: But not only that, they would… Matter of fact, I have pictures of one of the men that’s still producing sisal. The fibers are woven into manila rope…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …and manila rope was used during World WarÿI. There was no nylon and no synthetics, and the Navy and all the other shipyard people during World WarÿI had to have ropes. The loading of the huge net onto cargo, with these great big loading nets for bringing cargo into a ship’s hull, all that was rope. And this Mr. Barbachano had these great big haciendas, estancias. And he produced sisal and made rope and made a fortune.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Then when the government took over all the land in the Mexican Revolution, he was permitted, not only because of his wealth, but also his great contribution to the Mexican industry and economy, he was permitted to keep his lands. I’ve got pictures of some of those haciendas around. They’re beautiful, my God. Great.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: They’re beautiful.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well anyhow, that was the background with Esther. We spent all this time working and produced a good story, that I still have many of the pictures. Matter of fact, to show you how history repeats itself, I had the picture of the temple at Chichen-Itza. Did you see it that day? Were you down there when I was showing it to Joanne Jaffe of the Angeles magazine?


JULIUS SHULMAN: I brought it with me in the car, because I had written a piece about–and I think I mentioned it at the service [_________–Ed.]–about how she and I climbed the temple. Sat there by moonlight. I had set up a camera, and I carried a bag of flashbulbs, and Esther carried an extra bag of bulbs on her back, and I had a flashgun. We walked, and I set the camera on a time exposure in the moonlight, and we walked up to the very top of the temple. But I kept interspersing the walking with firing flash. And the flash shows in the finished photograph. You can see my white shirt, and on one picture, at the very top of the temple, is an image of a person standing near the flashgun, and there’s a white, just a blurred white thing, and that’s Esther at the very top of the temple. And anyhow, then we sat and talked in the moonlight, just listening to the sounds and quiet of the full moon.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, I [see] _____ _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It was a beautiful experience. But that’s all part of this business of photography. Money is not the issue, see. Especially in those days. That was 1956. We didn’t worry about how much money. And Esther was the same way. She was not mercenary. She would always get paid, whatever she did. She mentioned, when I spoke to her on Tuesday… She died on a Saturday of that week. I talked to her that morning on the phone, and she wasn’t doing too well, she said, but she had mentioned about the… I thanked her again for doing the Angeles story. Something came up about how much work she had been doing. She had ten articles this year, she said, or something like that.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s incredible.

JULIUS SHULMAN: This last year, in 1989.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And she’s been, she was always busy writing–concerning the [handicapped, handicap]–but she managed. Of course, like she said, it would take her…

Like when I did my book on the photography of architecture, all that text is something I dictated to a… I had a secretary, a friend, who was working at the time on that book. And I would sit and talk, and she would take shorthand. And I dictated everything that went into the book, chapter by chapter, item by item, and she would type it up, and that was it. I gave that to the publisher. I brought it into New York, and their book editor made some minor changes here and there, but… The first book was changed dramatically, the one I did in 1955. Of course, I didn’t really know how to write tight sentences and tight statements. I would go on that long what could have been like this. [gesturing length of text–Trans.]

And it reminds me of when [Charles–Ed.] Shultz, in one of his Peanuts cartoons a few years ago, had a cartoon showing Snoopy sitting at a typewriter, very studiously punching a key. And there’s another box next to it, and he shows him punching another key. Third box, he’s punching another key. The fourth box in the cartoon shows him looking at you and he’s saying, “We writers have to be very careful and thorough in our selection of words.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: And it shows behind him, he’s typed the word, “T-h-e.” He’s starting a book: “The”… [chuckles]


JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, I had to learn in my first book to write tersely and objectively, so anyhow the second book I went right through it, no problem. The first book, I spent ten days in New York at the Berkshire Hotel, which was on 52nd and Madison, and Whitney Library of Design was on 51st and Madison, by coincidence. So every morning, for ten days, I’d walk over with my portfolio, with all the briefcase full of papers, to the offices, and I’d sit there and work with the editor, Susan… What was her last name [Braybrook–Ed.]? A young girl, just came from England. And she got a new career working for Whitney at the time. And I would give her the paperwork, and we’d discuss things, and I would take them back and rewrite them during the night. Next morning, we’d work again, discussing and putting back chapter by chapter.

But, you see, that’s part of the background of writing and expressing architecture and design. We had great times in those days, because I had to pay very little for my… Hotel bills weren’t much in those days. I had a friend who managed the Berkshire Hotel, and every time I came to New York, I had a room for maybe $30 a night. Today it would be $150 to $200 a night, at the cheapest in New York. But imagine, to be able to walk a block to the office, publisher house, and everything was at a slow pace. They were able to allow me to have this girl every day for ten days to work with me.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, that’s very important.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s great. It was just wonderful. And I learned so much from the rewrites, which I didn’t have to do on the second book. That second book went into three printings. A new Steps and Stairways book that I worked on with Cleo Baldon and Ib Melchior, and that’s just published by Rizzoli, they’ve sold thousands already. They’ve done very well with it, considering it’s a $45 book. Well, now, getting back to this thing about the case-study house program. At the present time, with the distribution of press kits on the part of MOCA to magazines and publishers all over the world, suddenly the people all over the world are saying, “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with this kind of architecture. This is beautiful.” Everyone’s doing stories.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Including the one I showed you before, this Baumeister from Munich, Germany. Domus in Italy, of course, is doing something. And then two magazines in Paris. Somebody in Nuremberg, Germany. Somebody from Geneva, Switzerland. I don’t know what more. It just keeps pouring out. And then locally we have the LA Style magazine, and then the Metropolitan Home magazine in New York did a story on case-study houses.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, I haven’t seen this one.

JULIUS SHULMAN: So the issue is that perhaps people are beginning to realize, coming full circle, that what was done in those days was good, was a contribution. And they offer some thoughts, some concepts of design which have been dismissed or overlooked or disregarded. Or just not known because we have another generation of people.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, maybe. What seemed to me to be lacking was just [knowledge about–Ed.] the thoughtfulness that went into a lot of the case-study houses.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah. The architects who designed the case-study houses were doing the line work on their working tables with their T-square and triangles by hand. They were doing the work themselves. They didn’t have a staff. Maybe sometimes they have one person working with them, but ninety percent of the time the work was done by the architect. That’s all the work he had to do at the time. The architects weren’t busy. And as a result the public was given the personal work.

And this is coming back full circle. And a lot of this work is very good. And it turns out that the demand keeps increasing over and over. What will be the final result, I don’t know. But I think this leads me to the feeling that those of us who are still close to the case-study house program could continue to educationally invoke the feeling–among students especially, young architects–that, “Hey, this is good.” Let’s find now how we can infuse this philosophy into present-day architecture, to oppose the already fading-out, I hope, of the horrible things that were done by the post-Modernists, who didn’t pay attention to the intrinsic details and values of architecture as we knew it in the so-called International Style days. But then the architects who continued to work with the philosophy, say of the case-study house program, in their own range of experiences, these architects became very successful. And they include Smith and Williams and of course Thornton Abell–and Buff Hensman, naturally. And Killingsworth didn’t do many more houses, but he got a big send-off with his, whatever houses he did, and then he became involved in hotel architecture all over the world. So there was a big influence throughout the world on the part of our International architecture.

But then from there on, this style of architecture influenced people in every walk of life. And all the commercial buildings that were done prior to the wave of horrendous post-Modern architecture, all the work that was done during the fifties and sixties, was influenced directly by the so-called Modern style of the thirties and forties. Call it International Style, if you will. But I don’t think there’s any question that the influence was great. Now it seems as if it’s coming back. Now, Gin Wong, who used to work with William Pereira, has never left the fold of doing severe, simple, Modern architecture. And he was called upon by Dr. Robert Schuller at the Crystal Cathedral to do a new family service building. And I saw a picture in the paper the other day of the family service building that Gin Wong designed for Dr. Schuller. It is placed between the Crystal Cathedral that [Phillip–Ed.] Johnson did, and the Tower of Hope that Neutra did, which is next to the original drive-in church. And I’ve known Schuller since the fifties, when he first began his work. I photographed his original church for Time magazine in the fifties; we became good friends. Then in the ensuing period he worked with Neutra on the Tower of Hope, and then when Phillip Johnson and Burgee did the Crystal Cathedral, we photographed that.

Now, he called recently–in December. They had a meeting with Gin Wong and some of the principals on the family service building, and Schuller at the meeting asked about getting pictures taken–the building was nearing completion–and he told Gin Wong and the others that he’d like to have me photograph it. And somebody said, “Well, Julius is retired now.” And Schuller said, “That’s all right.” He had his primary associate, Jim Coleman, call me that day, and Jim said, “We’d like you to photograph the building sometime soon, within the next month or two when it’s all finished. And when Gin Wong told Dr. Schuller at the meeting that you were in retirement, Schuller said, ‘Just call Julius and tell him I want him to photograph it for me. [chuckling] Which I will. I’ll make arrangements to do it.

But the point is that so much work that’s being done today is going far afield. The veneer, the decoration of the architecture, is a false facade in many cases. For shock effect. But, Gin Wong is one of the few architects who stayed within the original design feeling of the period of the fifties and forties and sixties. I saw a picture of it in the paper recently. It’s far, far from the original concept of the Neutra, or, certainly, the Crystal Cathedral of Phillip Johnson. But it represents a more commercial working-type building, which it’s intended to be. It’s a family service building–educational and whatever else. So it shows that architecture can stay within a certain fold. I haven’t it seen it firsthand yet. Matter of fact, I was supposed to call Jim Coleman, and I will do that this afternoon. We can go on from there.

[looking at more photographs:] Even this hotel, this Kona Surf Hotel, look at the line on that. This is 1940/50 style. Oh, yeah, here it is. 1973. And that architecture is far from what’s being done in a hotel at present. The resort hotels these days are a composite of every known jazzy style you’ve ever imagined in your life. Of course, the architects are working now towards creating a symbolism.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Of an imaginary magic kingdom kind of building. Disneyland kind of thing. And using all kind of tricks and devices–to numb your feelings, to entice you to imbibe. It’s like a drug! Matter of fact, that’s a good point. I think architecture of resorts and hotels is being pursued with the idea of creating a motion-picture studio set. Make-believe world. And in today’s life, and today’s world, where you have such tremendous pressures… It begins from the moment you leave your house. On the freeway to go to work, you have gridlock, continuously. If you want to go to a restaurant for lunch, you wait in line. Wherever you go in this world today, you have to wait for everything. And you have to abide by the rules set down by other people.

And this is one of the problems that architects are confronted by. How can you detour our economy and our social structure into a world that we used to know? Acquire the world. A world that did give us opportunities. We didn’t have to have the high-speed, high-powered small cars, luxury cars. Now, for example, BMW has just announced a new 800 series, a car that’s being sold for, I think, $80,000, maybe $85,000. I forget the exact figure. There’s a competition among automobile manufacturers. Infinity by Nissan–or Toyota, whatever–Alexis by Toyota, BMW now. All the car manufacturers are competing with each other to produce bigger, fatter, faster, richer automobiles. It’s pursuant to what’s happening in our society.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Richer than thou, holier than thou kind of thing.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, and it’s been a very sudden escalation…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Now therefore you ask…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …_____ recent memory.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes, exactly. It’s the last five to ten years. Now we ask the question: What’s the photographer’s role in all of this?


JULIUS SHULMAN: In my case, fortunately, I’m able to help produce the statement, the message, of the intrinsic values of good architecture, good design. And I think our role, mutually, can be towards producing or projecting more of that image, and say to people, especially young architects, how can we make for a better environment? How can we produce so-called affordable houses? But the answer, of course, depends on the political structure of our society. And from the point of view of my photography, my sermonizing on the subject, I say unless we have a strong political body governing us from Sacramento and/or Washington, or within the framework of the city, we cannot possibly prevail upon our governing bodies. Ranging like in Los Angeles, the board supervisors will give permission against the will of thousands of people living in a neighborhood, give permission to go ahead and build nine thousand more houses on top of what’s already existing. Out there, for example, in Lancaster, there’s a new development. The huge, new Shapell thing out here in Panorama City, which is also going to be thousands of houses in the existing neighborhood. And they’re going to move millions of yards of dirt. It’s going to take years. Now how about the people living there?


JULIUS SHULMAN: So what I’m trying to say is the photographer is in a unique role. We can do a lot–and I’ve worked for years in that direction–to try to use the camera and the photography to prevail upon people to learn more about environment. We had an exhibit called Project Environment USA, which traveled the country for ten years and more, from the 1960s into the seventies. We had 150 pictures, 30 by 40 blowups, I had taken in different parts of the country, as a contribution to this group called the Architectural Panel, a group of young designers and architects, professional graphics people. They wanted to prevail upon the public to understand more about the values of good environment. This is way before people had “discovered” the ecology or environment; this was in the sixties. [chuckles] And I traveled around the country and took pictures, and then we made these blowups and we had an exhibit. The exhibit traveled all the way from Washington, the AIA [American Institute of Architects–Ed.] headquarters there, during an AIA convention. Universities throughout the country–and galleries.

I don’t remember how many exhibits we had. Hundred and fifty prints. Shipping with these great big wooden crates, which I still have now in the garage. And these are some of the pictures standing here, from the exhibit.

And we contributed much in terms of demonstrating to the public the value of good environment as created by architects. That never was pursued as much as it could have been, because I think we lost contact. But the role of photographer is infinite. And we have another series of exhibits that’s going to be produced by MOCA, and by the Los Angeles Conservancy people.

And I’m going to have an exhibit in April 24. A lecture, really; not an exhibit. Another one of my lectures… I gave one a few years ago, but this time it’ll be an odyssey, a reminiscent kind of thing about my background and my experiences over my lifetime of work. And then, adjacent to that, will be a series of exhibits that the Conservancy wants to have in different public places throughout the city. Museums, stores, department stores, banks, wherever we can find a place to exhibit in galleries, exhibit pictures. Have this series of small exhibits in different places, perhaps even simultaneously, to get more people to get back into environment and L.A. Conservancy kind of programs.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s terrific.

JULIUS SHULMAN: So, you see, as we speak here, we can then produce an infinite number of ideas of how a photographer… I’m blessed with the fact that I’ve been able to do this for over half a century, and it’s going on more and more. I’ve never been busier in my life than I am now.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And it’s exciting, because as long as I’m in good health, and I’m able to do this way, and I have the inclination to do it… I was supposed to be at Yosemite this week for my annual cross-country skiing, but I didn’t do that. Instead I’m here.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Is there snow over there? Is there any snow in Yosemite?

JULIUS SHULMAN: No. My friend called me from there yesterday. But even then, Yosemite’s beautiful without snow.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But the thing is… We did a field trip–it started with Ansel Adams when he was still alive–a workshop, called the “Architecture of Nature,” which was a workshop based on getting photographers to understand the relationship between nature and architecture. And that was a very successful program. But there again, you see, there’s any number of, infinite number of directions that we can take.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Let’s wrap up this tape.

[Tape 2, side B, is blank]
[ Tape 3, side A]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Today is January 20, 1990. Last time, we left off in about the late 1940s, early fifties. And what I’d like to do is pick up and have you talk about your career and what it was like to be a photographer in L.A. in the fifties and the sixties. There was a growing appreciation at the time of modern architects. The case-study program had brought some recognition to the people in the area; people were interested in looking at architecture more. And obviously your clients were seeking you, so perhaps you can tell us a little bit about your recollections of the period.

JULIUS SHULMAN: The moment I began work in 1936 there was an almost instant acceptance because in the thirties, in this area particularly, there was hardly any person who specialized in the term architectural photography. When I began in 1936, when I met Neutra, at that time there was a photographer that he used, who had come here from Germany in the early thirties: [________–Ed.] Luckhaus, Luckhaus Studios. He was a man who was rather good in technical work, and he did a lot of work with Neutra, but he did not have a fluent control of his imagination. He tended to be very rigid and very technical about his work, and his photographs, albeit very good, lacked the imagination, the composition, the design, of a composition of photography.

Now, at that time also, there was a man name of Fred Dapprich. Fred Dapprich was a very well known man. He worked with [Rudolf M.–Ed.] Schindler and some of the early architects. And Harwell H. Harris, too, for that matter–because I remember seeing his name when I was first beginning association with these architects.Now, apart from these two men, there were others. There were men working in the early years, much to the surprise of many people, who worked with the early traditional architects, men whose work appeared in the wonderful, large gravure publication of the Architectural Digest, in the early years of the thirties and even into the forties. John Brassfield was the publisher, and he ran a rather successful magazine, way before the days of the current Digest. These were black and white, naturally, and they were done in beautiful gravure printing, large-format magazine. Very similar to the early years of the Architectural Review in London. Big pages and a lot of white space. It’s elegant; beautiful books! But the architectural photographers of that period were mostly specialists in interiors–and exteriors, of course, too–but they were good. They were the forerunners of some of the work that was done in later years.

I often wonder where these men’s collections went to. They may still be around somewheres. I hope they are, because they did beautiful pictures. Architecture was not contemporary as we know it, but they were of the work of Roland Coates and others of that kind. Gordon Kaufman.


JULIUS SHULMAN: The early classical architects, whose work represented the forerunner to the architecture that we knew, that I knew when I began in 1936. And I remember seeing their work in the pages. Now there are also commercial photographers who were called upon in the successive years–say in the thirties and into the forties. These are the commercial men who had studios and… Like Dick Whittington, for example. Dick Whittington was a very remarkably well-known man. Good photographer. He had a staff, and their specialty was doing commercial work of every kind. Architecture was just part of it. In other words, if an architect wanted a building photographed, he would call Dick Whittington, and Dick Whittington would send out a man, or he would go himself and get a pretty good picture of that building. Matter of fact, the Whittington archives are extremely important, because they represent, more than any other photographer, the L.A. scene. I think his son is still running the business, if I recall; there was something involved there. But Whittington died years ago. But I remember him. I met him a few times. He was good, especially… And a sensitive person. He didn’t know architecture. As a matter of fact, you see, the point is, until contemporary architecture came on the scene in the thirties, the architects and builders who called on photographers didn’t know the difference either, between architectural photographers and commercial photographers.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s interesting; that’s a good point.

JULIUS SHULMAN: When many of them met me, during my early years, when I became more well known, architects were told by others, “Why don’t you get Shulman? He’s good at architecture.” And in response they would as much as say–to me when I met them–why can’t we just continue to call in, say, [Alenzo–Ed.] Stagg or Merge Studios, or Whittington? These early names were around and there were quite a few of them, [________–Ed.] Putnam, and, oh, I can’t remember them all, but they were good ones, really, the old time commercial men, and they were very serious, good workers and they didn’t charge too much money. No one did in those days. And out of this came an understanding on the part of these early architects and builders that, yes, there was a difference. I remember there was a company Davies & Keusder. Davies & Keusder were builders. And they had an architect working in their firm by the name of F.ÿW. Green, and their specialty was motels. They did a whole series of motels up and down the state. Topper Motel and their logo was a top hat, of course.

I didn’t know it at the time, but many of these hotels, motels along Ventura Boulevard were the kind they used to call “hot beds,” where they would change customers two or three times a day. These were the kind where the people would grab a bed with a girl and have a good time and run out. And I didn’t know this when I was photographing these places, and I was wondering why there was sort of a mysterious horror around when I would go in to photograph one of the rooms–which the architects wanted. They would say, “Well, we’ll have to wait for a few minutes until room number fifteen will be vacated.” [laughter] Turnover three or four times a day. It was a rather exciting thing, because in my case I didn’t know anything about sex in those days. [chuckling] I was a young kid, and I didn’t think… No one ever knew that there was such an industry.

Anyhow, the photographs I took of the motels for this company were good because I lit up my interiors nicely, such as they were. They were not large rooms, but they were well designed. I dramatized the design and the appearance of the rooms and so on. I kept the lights pleasantly shadowed. Now, that was one reason why I was successful to these people, because I was able to portray their work, whatever the purpose of the motels were. Up in Bakersfield they had many, and up and down the coast where they were purely commercial for salespeople. In those days salespeople drove up and down the state all the time selling whatever products they were representing, and they would stay overnight in these motels, which were great for that kind of service. Big ones in Bakersfield, for example. Of course that was sort of the central part of the state. It took a good part of a day’s drive to go to Bakersfield, spend a few hours there, and then stay overnight, go the next day to Fresno, where there were other motels. But they were also in Merced and all those little towns all the way up to San Francisco.

So I was doing statewide work even in the thirties, photographing for commercial people, especially. And then mixed with that was the work I was doing with architects who were there. Like, for example Neutra, we did a couple of houses in Bakersfield, and I would always tie in my work with other projects so I was able to share expenses with other clients. It worked out very well. This was in the forties, and not so much in the fifties, but in the thirties and forties when my work first began in the commercial sense.

I’m suggesting this because, even today, architectural photographers… Well, let’s reverse that, let’s say that photographers… As occurred just yesterday. A young man called me from Pasadena Community College, he’s studying photography. He’d like to specialize in architecture, and they asked him to interview some photographer who is a specialist or an expert or acknowledged in his field. So the man chose me to be his representative for this interview. Now I said to him, “If we are going to talk about this work especially, I’m going to suggest that let’s go back, as we are now, to the early days how did I begin.”

Well now, in the thirties, my wife and I had friends who were our age and they were just newly married, and… For example, just the other day, we had a couple up here for dinner and, prior to their coming, I found a little notebook which I have here on my desk–like a diary notebook in which I kept my accounts and my calendar and my dates–and I noticed, for example, the couple. Just by chance, I opened that little 1939 book with my appointments, a little five-cent pocket notebook, and the couple Sally and Al Cassell, and the little note said such and such a night that week in ’39 was their first wedding anniversary. Fascinating. But in the meantime, after they were married and they had children, I began doing baby pictures.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And I was very successful at baby photography.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s interesting.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Strange isn’t it? Because some of my portraits of babies were… I used dramatic lighting, shadow lighting, and I didn’t use flash. We didn’t have flash in those days, we just had floodlights, and I was photographing babies as I would an object–an inanimate object, for that matter. Careful lighting and shadows, and careful exposure of course.

But the other time I thought this would have reference to what we are discussing now, was one of the daughters of this couple whose first wedding anniversary I had detected in my notebook from 1939–this is 1989, fifty years, that’s kind of scary–but one of the daughters came over to visit with her child, a new baby. And she walked into our entrance hall. I had one of the portraits hanging there, baby pictures. It was this young lady. By chance, it was just hanging there. And she walked into the living room, into the entrance hall, and walked right past the picture. I said, “Deedee”… No, this is Irene [Cassell–Ed.]. They had two daughters. This is Irene. “Irene. Just a minute. Come back. Look.” “Oh my God,” she said, “That’s me!”


JULIUS SHULMAN: She remembered the photograph. This was this young girl who’s now a mother. I think she’s a grandmother now, by chance, for this was several years ago. But this girl then was a mother with a new baby. And she had several babies; she had quite a large family. And this picture was taken when this little girl was a few months old.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, how wonderful.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Fascinating. Now, the point is I used to get two dollars a piece for these pictures.



TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: How much profit did you make from two dollars?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, if I would take three or four pictures, and then if they ordered reprints I’d make a ten-dollar order. The strange thing was in this little notebook I was mentioning, I kept my accounts on the back pages of the notebook–there’s a space for monthly accounts–and I would enter January through December, the income I had for that. For example, this particular month I was looking at one day when my friends were here, I made $179 for the month. We lived in a four-room flat and I had a darkroom at home and I paid $25 a month rent. And did I mention last time we were talking about how I spent fifty cents? I think I did.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, to go to the market.

JULIUS SHULMAN: To go to the market. And I got ten cents change after buying four major commodities for ten cents apiece, whether it was milk or eggs or bread. Bread now is two dollars plus a loaf, as you know. Now the point is in those days, out of $179 income, photography equipment was minimal, the kind I used. Photography film and paper–I did all my own work. Enlargements cost you maybe five cents a piece of paper, for an eight by ten sheet, if that much. And the film was pretty cheap.

Everyone made a living, somehow. Including the manufacturers who produced the film and the paper and chemicals that goes into… And when you work at home alone, you can’t help but make whatever profit. In our thinking, we were not involved in making a big business, because this was new and I didn’t know anything about business. I used to take photographs, and I also would deliver an eight-by-ten print with each picture I took without charging–as we do or everyone does even in those days. They always charged for reprints. I never did. I was naive, and also to me money was not the issue. I was becoming a successful photographer from day one, and I was taken by the fact that I could make a go of it–which I did quickly.

And I learned, as time went on… For example, I went in the army in October ’43. In September of that year, I had photographed the new synthetic rubber industry plants down at the south end of L.A., and I made three hundred dollars that month, which was a lot of money.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And then during the two years I was in the army, the Museum of Modern Art kept ordering reprints from my wife, who held the negatives at home. She lived at her mother’s house at that time, so we had no overhead. She would send the negatives out to a friend of ours who had a commercial photography studio who made prints, too. So we had an income even during the war years, the two years I was away. Plus my $36 a month income as the first several months as a private, and then I became a technical sergeant, and I think I was earning more like $50 a month. That was a pretty good salary and that money went home.

But the thing is, in the early years of photography there was no need to specialize in terms of pursuing a career and making money. The most important thing was I was becoming known and I was able to work at my leisure. My wife and I had a group of friends who enjoyed hiking and camping, as we did. And every time there was any kind of a holiday we would all go together to Death Valley or Sequoia, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and we’d find places where we’d go visit and go camping. And as a result, whenever there was any chance to get away we would. And we never paid much attention to business. We were more concerned with producing us a lifestyle, as such.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And this is still prevalent today in my life. Always has been during my career–although during the fifties, after the war, I became extremely swamped with work. Before we built this place where we are now up in the hills, I had rented office space, darkroom space, it was in a little apartment house on Sixth and Western. And on the third floor I had rented what used to be an old apartment. I converted it into an office and darkroom. The kitchen became my darkroom and my enlarging room was part of the living room–I made a partition there. So for thirty or forty dollars a month rent, I was able to have a pretty good workshop. And it was only a couple three miles from where we lived at my mother-in-law’s house. Because by–this was ’47–by 1949, we were already building this place where we are now. So for two years after the war–four years really, round numbers–I worked in a commercial sense in a good location. I didn’t have anyone coming up to the place so I didn’t have to worry about opening up a certain time of day, closing a certain time, waiting for people to come up to see me. All my business was conducted on the telephone, and I would make deliveries myself. I would deliver the prints right directly to the architect. It was very personal work.

And I found that by 1947, within two years, I was becoming known to magazines all over the world who were looking to publish American architecture. That includes the primary magazines in New York, the architectural magazines–The Forum, the Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture, Interiors. These magazines existed and were very successful publishing work from all over the country. Then in Europe there was the Architecture Review in London and, of course, several magazines in Germany, and some in Switzerland, South America. I was getting requests from magazines from all over the world who had seen published in… And Arts and Architecture was in full swing in those years and was widely circulated.

So, suddenly, my byline was beginning to pay off. I was associated, especially in the postwar years, with being one of the few architectural photographers in this part of the country–on the west coast even. In San Francisco, there was a fellow by the name of Roger Sturtevant.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Roger was a tremendously successful photographer. He was a forerunner… He was of the same generation, say, of Fred Dapprich, who I mentioned before. And Roger was the most prominent photographer in the Bay area. In the Northwest, there were two or three photographers who were working but they couldn’t make a go of it up there because so much of the year was involved in foggy, rainy, nasty weather.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, let’s talk about a couple of other people whose names I know of. There’s Morley Baer.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Now Morley Baer came in on the scene, out of the Bay area, also in the late forties and fifties, after the war period. After the war, we had a beginning of a new generation of photographers. We had here, for example, Robert Cleveland and George de Gennaro.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Now I don’t know his name.

JULIUS SHULMAN: George became… Well, let’s say this. George was an extremely versatile person. He was one of my favorite photographers. He not only did good architecture, interior photography, as a matter of fact, he was almost the sole representative for Better Homes and Gardens Magazine for years out here on the West coast. And George not only did beautiful photography, but his landscape photography, his garden photography, but more than that, his food photography.


JULIUS SHULMAN: He became a specialist in food photography.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And that became very important in the end of the fifties and the sixties.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Right, it was. And George was able to do some of the best food photography in the country. He was sought after by New York magazines, for that matter. But he never was able to be placed into too well defined of a specialty, because Ladies Home Journal called upon him many times to do interior photography out here and in other parts of the West coast–much the same way as House and Garden asked me to work with them in 1947. And for seventeen years I did most of House and Garden’s photography on the West coast, including Arizona, through southern, all through California, Utah, and so on, Washington and Oregon.

Those of us who were specialized became known because there weren’t many photographers around. You mentioned Morley Baer, and Morley Baer came in on the scene, and he began to do work around, primarily around the Bay area. And Morley also was an extremely good photographer. In other words, we had in the fifties–let’s use that as a round number. In the fifties, at any given time, we had a team of awfully good photographers.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, California was blessed.

JULIUS SHULMAN: More so here. However, in those years I remember belonging to the Architectural Photographers Association. That was a New York-based group of photographers who were specialists in architecture. There must have been ten, fifteen, twenty photographers belonging to the group, at the beginning, from all different parts of the country. But the headquarters was New York, and we used to have annual conventions there, little get-togethers to talk about our specialty. It was the beginning and many of those photographers are still working.

But also, on the other hand, as evidenced here, when you look through our magazines–whether it’s the Architectural Digest or Angeles or California Magazine–you’ll find–and the architectural publications, too–you’ll find strange names. Like in my case, I stopped doing photography assignments three years ago, in 1986, and as the magazines pursued new work, there are new photographers and some of them are very good. There’s one thing more, though, that the magazines–the shelter magazines, who do most of the work for public information–like I mentioned Angeles or California or the Architectural Digest–their concern is not necessarily quote, unquote, “architectural photography.” They want to specialize more in interiors, you know.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But also, too, architecture has changed.


JULIUS SHULMAN: This is another thing which has prompted me to back away, in the middle eighties, from doing work–because I noticed the trend is toward so-called “post-modern” architecture. I refused to do photography for the architects who were doing what I called a hideous facade kind of architecture. It was a veneer, and I was weaned on the discipline of good design, integrity, client relationship, concern for honest, straight-forward architecture. Well, by the eighties, even seventies, that became pass‚.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Right, well, _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: People didn’t want a house like ours here, steel and glass. Soriano never got any clients from this house because, as the years went on, during the sixties and seventies, even that early, the public was turning away from this kind of severe, so-called International-style architecture. They were beginning to be attracted to the work of the architects who were using more wood and sloping ceilings, and sloping roofs and changing the materials. No more of the flat ceiling, steel frame, glass box equivalent to the International-style pursuit. And the architects who were specializing in and trying to force new clients into this envelope–into this, literally a box–they were the ones who suffered; they weren’t getting new clients.

There were architects working in the fifties and sixties, as evidenced by the offshoots of the direction taken during the case study house program of Arts and Architecture Magazine, men such as Smith and Williams–who, at that time, were actually among my favorites, because they were moving away, evolving into a more relaxed expanse of architectural spirit to their houses. And the result was that they were carrying the baton now in their pursuit of good design according to the way they saw it. And they became very successful. I could name you many, many architects who were pursing successfully their work: Buff and Hensman–Buff, Straub and Hensman. But Straub left for Arizona State at that time, and so Buff and Hensman became very successful in doing post-and-beam kind of architecture, but in a way that the early so-called International-style architects couldn’t quite compete.


JULIUS SHULMAN: The public liked what Buff and Hensman did, Smith and Williams–right down the line; I mentioned several other names. But that was the direction that was being taken in architecture.

Now in photography, there was no problem, as far as I was concerned, to photograph any kind of project. Builders, architects we had a man by the name of Burton Schutt. And Schutt had come out here from Hawaii in the forties. He’s the man who purchased the old horse-riding stables in BelAire up the canyon, Stone Canyon, and tore everything down and built the BelAire Hotel. And by 1947, when I photographed the hotel for him, he had created a tremendously successful hotel, which evolved into what it is today, as one of the best glamour hotels in the world.


JULIUS SHULMAN: When you say hotels here which are of that quality, you think of not just of the Four Seasons, the new Marriott kind of commercial hotels, or the Century City Plaza. The hotels that were good were the Beverly Hills, the Beverly Wilshire, and, of course, the BelAire Hotel. We had glamour hotels in those days, which were attracting the so-called movie colony people. And the people coming out here from different parts of the world wanting to stay at the fine-quality private hotels.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But, yeah, Burton Schutt was that kind of a man. He designed houses and hotels in those early years. And again I was photographing most of the work. And I remember, just recently somebody was asking me if I had ever photographed hotels, somebody from back east or from Europe, I don’t remember where they were from. And I was recalling that I had photographed almost all of the new hotels during the fifties and sixties that were built in this area. And it’s astounding because my work expanded to embrace the architecture of all kinds of buildings throughout this area.


JULIUS SHULMAN: There are two reasons, of course. One, of course, was there were not many photographers, and anyone coming out here who wanted work done would invariably know my name or would be referred to me.

They still are. This is another exposure which has occurred with the Museum of Contemporary Art, with MOCA’s being able to produce this wonderful exhibit of the architecture of the 1950s, The Case Study House Program. Suddenly, it turns out when this program evolved and was developed that I was the one that had photographed 15 of the 18 houses that were built.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I was looking at my files with Elizabeth Smith when she came up to make a selection for the production of this exhibit, and I was astounded to see how much work I was doing during the forties and fifties, into the sixties.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I was busy around the clock.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I couldn’t believe how much work came through my studio. I opened this studio in 1950, when we moved up here on the hill. And by 1950, I was… I never had more three people working for me. In the 1950 period, I had an assistant who did the darkroom work, and I had a woman who did the printing, and she also took care of the paperwork while we were out shooting pictures. We came back from the assignment, and then my assistant would then go in the darkroom and develop the negatives, and then the next day, the young lady would do the prints. So we managed with two. And eventually I got another person to work with me. But during the sixties, particularly, is when the volume of work was the heaviest.

But the thing is, I had a head start. I was here at the beginning. Time and place philosophy is important. I found that by paying attention during the early years, to the work that I was doing and the care I placed in lighting especially, I was very good at producing indoor/outdoor balance of light.


JULIUS SHULMAN: That was still a mystery to many, many photographers. I used flash. We didn’t have strobe lights in those days. We used flashbulbs. Color and black and white photography. I was able to produce pictures of such perfect balance between the indoors and outdoors without being obtrusive, without making the pictures obviously… producing the feeling that a photographer was there.


JULIUS SHULMAN: My pictures were very natural. There’s one there on the table of a house overlooking the ocean at Laguna Beach. I took that for a builder. It was designed by a well-known architect at the time. But the balance between the interiors and exteriors was so perfect that you felt that you were actually in the room. The eye would adjust when you were in the room, from the light inside to the light outside. But photography-wise it doesn’t work that way. You have to learn to see and feel the proper exposure for the outdoors–the ocean in this case, the bay with the glistening, reflecting light on the surf–and then you also have to say, “Now let’s see, how can we produce lighting on the interior to give you a feeling of natural light in the house, as the eye would see it, but then without being evident that a photographer had produced this scene with all kind of conflicting lights and shadows?” My balance of photography lighting was such that this is what prompted many, many people to call on me, because we had mastered the use of lighting, flash, to balance. And even to this day, I marvel at some of the pictures we used to take, because they were literally masterpieces at producing the image of design, interiors as well as exteriors.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah. Well, this is a very calm, it’s a very calm photograph.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s quiet, it’s not obtrusive.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Now a strange thing occurred, too, at that period of time, representative of the fifties and sixties, even into the seventies. Many photographers didn’t quite know how to use light and flash, and if they came into a house which had a lot of windows, they would (a) draw the draperies, or (b) photograph at nighttime, and still leave the draperies closed. They weren’t getting any ambient light–like the natural light on the ceiling flooding into a room like this where you had a lot of daylight coming in. There’s a feeling of soft light.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Now, I could produce that effect with my flash and show a garden outside. I remember one issue of the Architectural Digest had come out and I had photographed a house for an architect overlooking the mountains down in South Park–Shadow Mountain, I think it was called. It was the south of Palm Springs in the desert near where Palm Desert is today. Palm Desert had not been developed in those days. But this house looked out over the mountains, a very dramatic view of the mountains. And I had photographed it, using flash, and I chose the right time of day when the light was textured on the mountains. And I got the garden in the immediate foreground and, of course, the interior with all the draperies open and the interior design was well represented. A few months after I took that picture, I noticed that the Architectural Digest had published that same house. They had a full-page photograph of the view of the living room, which I had taken with the draperies open to show the mountains. Their photographer had closed the draperies, because he didn’t apparently know how to photograph it, or care. Maybe he was more concerned with showing the draperies against this twenty-foot-high or fifteen-foot-high wall of glass, because he could sell the pictures to the drapery company.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And the Architectural Digest would get an advertisement from the drapery company whereas they couldn’t get an advertisement, as I say, from the glass company to show the wall of glass facing the mountain view. I remember speaking to the editor about that. Afterwards, I said, “Look at my picture.” I showed her the picture I had taken a few months previous. “Why couldn’t your photographer have taken this kind of a photograph?” Well, she made some weak excuse. Mainly, in this case, the excuse came about from the lack of experience or know-how. My fort‚, then, had been developed with my sincere desire to represent the true meaning and significance of architecture. I said, “If a house faced a garden, faced the ocean, faced a mountain, let’s show the relationship as the architect intended to relate.” Yes, at nighttime, you can close the draperies, if you want to make the house more snug and more private. But during the daytime, which is the time you photograph most of your work, you represented a house as being a meaningful and significant representation of what architecture can achieve. So this is part of the…

Again, the growing volume of my work was represented by my ability to convey the true significance of architectural design. Which I know photography was great to have knowledge of, but only insofar as photography was not overpowering the significance, the representation of the architect’s design philosophy. And this is what came out. My pictures always were indicative of the design and the scale, the proper lenses, the proper wide angle, the medium-angle lenses we used to convey without over-exaggerating the perspectives.


JULIUS SHULMAN: All these things came through. And this is where I marvel too at my own lifestyle, my own experience, as the years went by. I still marvel at the fact that I never went to a photography school. There were no photographers that I could emulate in my early years. I didn’t have to because I was literally a pioneer. And I learned by my own experiences, but I was blessed with the ability to be able to express architecture.

And yet I never dreamed that, after seven years at university, that I would become an architectural photographer. When I met Neutra in March ’36, up to that moment–I had come home from Berkeley at that time, two weeks previously–and I didn’t know what I wanted to be.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I didn’t have the slightest idea. I was thinking even of becoming a forest ranger at one time. But I learned, when I was still at Berkeley, that to become a forest ranger and get a degree which would lead to a specialty–which it was–you would have to study chemistry, because biology was part of the studies. You’d have to learn a lot about certain sciences, even before you could become qualified to apply for a job as a forest ranger. So I dropped that quickly.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And then I didn’t know what else I was going to be. I thought maybe I can get a job in the L.A. Park System raking leaves in the park.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Anything to keep me happy being outdoors and making a life, which I was going to pursue based on what I had done previously since my Boy Scout days–outdoor living and outdoor experiences. It’s a strange thing, and then suddenly here I am thrust into architecture by the chance meeting with Richard Neutra. And I found out that I was good at photography, and I was able to create good photography compositions, design compositions.

[Tape 3, side 2]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: What I would like is to hear a little bit more about photography at the time. You’ve brought up an interesting point in saying that you would have been happy working outdoors, as well in life. And what about other people that were photographing nature? You previously expressed an interest in Ansel Adams. Could you imagine today that your career may have taken a move such as Ansel Adams’ career was? Can you explore a little bit more about photographers that are contemporary to you?

JULIUS SHULMAN: That’s a question which is not too difficult to answer, because when I was involved, in my early years, I was still active in the outdoors, for my pursuit of nature.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Sounds like you were traveling to the same places that Ansel Adams was traveling to.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes, exactly. As a matter of fact this is a good point, because I remember one year we were camping in Death Valley. By that time I had a four-by-five view camera, and I was taking some rather serious photographs of formations in Death Valley, including sand dunes. My sand-dune pictures are still being published. Matter of fact, the new California Highway magazine is going to do a story. They are doing a story on Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in the next issue, and following that they want to do something on the California desert, and they are going to use some of my sand-dune pictures taken in 1938 in Death Valley. Here I am walking along one of the mountain areas, Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, and there was a man carrying an eight-by-ten camera on his shoulder, leather puttees on his legs like an old army guy. Short man. I said, “Hello,” and he said, “Hello.” We both put our cameras down and started talking, introduced ourselves. This was Edward Weston.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, how wonderful.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It was a fantastic thing! And, as you know, Weston was one of the early, early forerunners of nature photography, as was Ansel Adams. And I remember later on in later years seeing some of Weston’s work published. Now, this was strange because, as I was photographing
natural scenes–whether it was Yosemite or whether it was Death Valley, wherever I went…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And you were taking those photographs for purely your own pleasure?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes. Because, of course, by then I was an architectural photographer making a specialty of that. I was not into nature photography. But when I see some of the pictures I have taken in black and white, perhaps if I had not gone… I don’t know how to say it. If I had not gone into architectural photography, I wouldn’t have acquired, say, a four-by-five view camera. I had an Eastman Kodak vest-pocket camera in the thirties, and even my early landscape pictures with that vest-pocket camera were good, and they’re still being used and published.

Like the Angeles Magazine is going to publish a story on my photography career in the March issue. And they’re using some of my pictures, one as far back as 1927 when I was in high school. I took a picture of a track meet with a Brownie camera, and that’s going to come out in the story. But the point I’m making is it’s a “Catch 22” kind of situation. Had I not been doing architecture, I wouldn’t have been in Death Valley with a camera and meeting Edward Weston and whatever. Nor would I have met Ansel Adams who I met in ensuing years. And I remember in the nineteen… What year was it when I pursued that workshop that Adams and I had set up? He died that same year but we continued that fall with the Ansel Adams workshop, as it was called.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That must have been about ’83?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Somewheres like that. I’ve got the date here somewheres.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I think he died in the early eighties.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Let me think for just a second here. Anyhow we’ll find it later, because I…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …have a copy of a magazine, Architectural Magazine, which used a picture on the cover of the Ahwahnee Hotel. I had done a workshop that year in September, and Adams’ daughter-in-law, Jeannie Adams, had produced this program after Adams died. Now the point I am making is I had met Adams several times and I admired him tremendously–mainly because he was not just a naturalist, he was one of the first genuine environmentalists.


JULIUS SHULMAN: He was a man who understood and fought for nature. And he was prevalent on the scene in Washington [D.C.–Ed.], all over the world, per se–not just influencing, but educating people to the values of environmental practices. And the result was that I was terribly impressed, not only by Adams’ photography–or Edward Weston’s photography–but the kind of people they were. Again, as I was saying before, I could perhaps have… Say I had not been successful in photography, architecture, I would have been out in the mountains.

Now we have a man, David Muench, who is the son of the early nature photographer, Joseph Muench, who came here from Germany in the thirties. And David, today, is one of the finest, most sensitive photographers we’ve ever had in nature photography. Although when you open the magazines, Audubon Society and others, which publish nature scenes, it’s not just Muench. There are a large number of great photographers. Sierra Club Books, for example.


JULIUS SHULMAN: They were people who lived outdoors, who carried eight-by-ten cameras, like Edward Weston used to do, up into the mountains, and those heavy film holders. I don’t know how they did it, for they didn’t carry pack horses. They carried, they worked… Like the early turn-of-the-century, William, what was his name, Henry Jackson, one of the early explorers of Yellowstone.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Who was the other man, [Edward–Ed.] Curtis, who photographed Indians last century? Big cameras. Worked in tents. Coated the plates. Film at night time. And I don’t know how he possibly took these magnificent exposures. These were great photographers, but they’re great humanitarians also. They knew how to relate to humans and relate to nature. Now…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: If I recall Adams’ story, he too didn’t know that he was going to turn out to become a photographer.

JULIUS SHULMAN: That’s right.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: He was a concert pianist as a child, and as a youth.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I have a book of his letters some friend gave me just recently. And when you read his early letters to his parents and friends [chuckling], apologizing for his amateur photography, little did he know, or anyone know, that he would become a great, great person. Now, again, I think there is a parallel here. Adams and I used to talk about this. He knew of my work in architecture. He used to say, “Gee, Julius, I could never do what you do with a camera in architecture and design.” I said, “Well, the reason that you say this is because you perhaps never tried it, but let’s face one fact. When I go out into nature, I can take awfully good pictures of nature whether it’s a sand dune in Death Valley or like the views…” By that time, I had photographed Yosemite in an entirely different way than he photographed Yosemite. I think we spoke of it before. I took views from Glacier Point with my four-by-five camera, looking across the valley towards Yosemite Falls. My views embraced a wide angle, showing not just the falls, but where the falls were in relationship to the Merced River, which was immediately below Glacier Point, and with a view of maybe Yosemite Falls smaller in scale. But also I was able to convey to my viewers the beauty and scope of Yosemite Valley.

Now I did the same thing in my architectural photography, I said to Ansel Adams during one of our conversations. I said, “In my work, when I photograph–say a chair for an interior designer or a table or a furniture arrangement–I would not draw the draperies, close up everything, and just focus right on the chairs and furniture. I would want a shade… I would insist–which was hard to convey–I would insist to the decorators, that “Let’s not sell furniture, let’s sell the ultimate design that you create on the interior of an architectural creation. Show where the furniture is situated.” “Now, I want to show Yosemite Falls,” I said to Adams. “I want to show it where it’s situated in respect to the entire architecture of nature.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: And the term “architecture of nature” is one I used for the title of my Ansel Adams workshop in later years, after Adams died, the same year he died. So he sort of chuckled, I remember, and his eyes lit up. He said, “Isn’t it strange. I never thought of it that way.” Because he took pictures… We have one of those photographs in that current issue of the California Highway. It’s an amazingly overpowering closeup of the sweep of flood of water pouring over the crest of Yosemite Falls. Scary, it’s so beautiful. So, in other words, you can do both.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yours is much more of an experiential attempt.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes, that’s right.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I don’t know Adams well enough to say, but perhaps his work was more influenced by Weston and that group in Carmel…


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …in their abstract pursuit of objects in nature…

JULIUS SHULMAN: But then, but that’s true.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …and nature as object rather than as an experience, as in a total experiential…

JULIUS SHULMAN: But then Adams became famous, on the other hand, for some of his more remarkable broad landscapes.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: The very large, yes.

JULIUS SHULMAN: The Moonlight in Hernandez [Moonlight Over Hernandez–Ed.]–or the New Mexico scene–was one of the classics.


JULIUS SHULMAN: It still is one of the classics in photography. One of those pictures was sold for twenty-two thousand dollars, which was an astronomical amount of money several years ago at the time.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: For a photograph, yeah.

JULIUS SHULMAN: For a photograph. Now, I think that this was a good point to discuss: the parallel. I was able in my architectural photography to convey the spirit, the nature of the site, on which a building was erected. Matter of fact, some of the early pictures I did with Richard Neutra’s work were landscape pictures.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And they in turn prompted, influenced, and inspired Neutra to do his book called Mysteries and Realities of the Site. He could read in to some of these photographs the fact that my composition created an impact, conveyed the nature of his design to the site. And I remember the cover on that book, Mysteries and Realities of the Site, was one picture we had taken from the roof of the Neutra Tremaine House in Montecito, because it showed the relationship [of] the house to this great, vast, oak-covered meadow looking up towards the mountains. And I think, in other words, that in my work–and Ansel Adams’ work, others who were nature photographers–we ran a parallel. We observed and experienced the parallel in our viewing of our respective specialties.

Now that was good for me too, because as my work continued that’s one of the reasons why many magazine editors and interior design people did not call upon me. Architectural Digest as a good example. I did a lot of work for the Digest over the years. But whenever I photographed something, they labeled my pictures quote/unquote “architectural photographs” and not “interior photographs.” As I said earlier about drawing draperies and photographing a house looking towards the mountains in Palm Springs… My picture, for example, in Palm Springs of the Richard Neutra house, which Neutra resisted my taking–the twilight picture of his Kaufman House, which has been published in every magazine, every book throughout the world. Why is that picture so violently successful? The impact is unbelievable wherever it’s shown. Mainly because people don’t just look at the house.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: No it’s quite exquisite.

JULIUS SHULMAN: They look at the experience of nature at twilight looking towards the mountains. And that is one of the secrets of my success, I think. I was able to convey, sometimes without the architects realizing it, the quality of the spirit of architecture. And as my time goes on and the years, after so many years, I realize that that was one of my secrets, one of my blessings.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So you did become conscious of that?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Always. I was always conscious of that. And again, as I said before, many of the interior designers and interior magazine people were so involved in selling advertising and selling furniture, they couldn’t quite at first grasp my persistence on indoor/outdoor exposure. I remember meeting Elizabeth Gordon at her house years ago in New York. Where was it? Hastings on the Hudson [Hastings-On-Hudson–Ed.], I think, is where she used to live. I was there for dinner. Her husband Carl Norcross was the editor of House and Home magazine at the time. He’s the one that arranged for me to meet her at the house and have dinner that night. But we got into a controversy, she and I, because she was insisting that my pictures were too cold. She used the term “cold.” Mainly because I was not glamorizing the interiors at the sacrifice of the exteriors. Although she did do some awfully good work in her publications. Maynard Parker was her primary photographer, and he was one of the best in the country. But our philosophy of photography wasn’t the same. I was weaned and influenced by, on the world of architecture, of design based on integrity, the total design, indoors, outdoors. And the early work that I was photographing in those years that Elizabeth Gordon condemned me for was the fact that the interiors of these modern houses were modest and lacked good design furniture, good drape, good interior accessories, which came later in the architectural world–the interior world.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, it’s interesting this, her saying that it’s “cold.” I wonder if you can recall the image by Man Ray of a Berkeley house in 1940, this cantilevered house. I think it’s called the Paris House.


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And those photographs particularly were criticized because they accentuated the severity of the lines of the house, and yet I’m sure you and I would agree that’s like a great modernist image of these dark roof lines and then this white, very light landscaping. I mean, she must have felt that was quite extraordinarily extreme and cold as well. And in some way, it seems her opinion of your work is a true misunderstanding of what was going on in California architecture, and then what some photographers were trying to show.

JULIUS SHULMAN: You see, the controversy, which had arisen by this time, when Elizabeth Gordon, through House Beautiful, published an issue one time condemning contemporary architecture as being Communistic. Not many people know of this today. It’s alarming, because again, as I’ve said so many times, there’s a blessing of growing older, and now as I approach eighty, I have this vivid recollection in my life of all these controversies.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Your memory is extraordinary. [chuckling] I’m continually impressed.

JULIUS SHULMAN: [chuckles] And, my goodness, one day came out this issue in House Beautiful. I’ll have to look up the dates on that.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I would really like to see that.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It was probably in the fifties or sixties.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Probably earlier.

JULIUS SHULMAN: She condemned Mies van der Rohe for his philosophy of less is more. She said, “It’s apparent…”–I remember her quotation–“It’s apparent to me or to those of us who feel this way”–I don’t remember how she phrased it–“that by pursuing a philosophy of ‘less is more’ and giving clients shabby closets, storage spaces in which you place your belongings, you are creating a dissatisfaction, maybe even a feeling of revolting on the part of the clients. They say, ‘My God! Why should I have such a small minimum closet? Am I happy with this design?’ÿ” And she was saying that the architects were, without realizing it or possibly doing it consciously, creating a feeling of revolt on the part of their clients.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s interesting.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Like the Mies Farnsworth House, which was notorious at the time for its failure. Mrs. [________–Ed.] Farnsworth was terribly dissatisfied with the house because it was very stark. And Mies’s houses were as naked as any International style architecture could create at that time.


JULIUS SHULMAN: It was good. It was highly idealized by the architectural magazines, and that’s another thing that created more conflict. In ensuing issues of the architectural magazines, letters to the editors condemning Elizabeth Gordon and House Beautiful for pursuing this destructive attack on modern architects… Neutra… I think this is another reason why she said to me in her home for dinner that night, referring to my work with Richard Neutra… She detested Neutra because he represented the epitome of International-style nakedness. Neutra insisted on photographing a lot of his houses without furniture in it, when it was just being finished. Or, if they had furniture, take the furniture out. Because this was true… In that respect, I agree, as years went on. Matter of fact, Elizabeth Gordon and I both received the AIA honorary membership just a few years ago in the national convention in Orlando, Florida. And we renewed our acquaintanceship and we found that we had a lot to talk about. We became good friends after all the years of animosity. [chuckles]

Of course she was older by that time–she was a few years older than I. We sat together and talked a long time about this before and after the program. But, here, she was in the position of producing a very wonderful magazine. At this time, she had also done… Or later on she did issues on [Shibui], the philosophy of Japanese interior design and Japanese architecture. I brought this up in our conversation. She said, “Julius, you would never believe the antagonism that I created with the publishers and the advertising people when I ran two issues on the philosophy of Japanese design.” But she then was respecting integrity without realizing it.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But, as the years went on, and I said to her–that period of time when were at this thing in Orlando–I said, “Elizabeth, you know…” I referred to that tremendous conflict that she created in the press of the world, the architectural press of the world. There were issues of magazines for several months, pros and cons, letters to the editors, editorials weighing and discussing the values that she was attacking. And I said, “Elizabeth, I was one of the people who wrote letters attacking you, because you were violently opposed to what I personally considered good architecture and good lifestyle.” And honestly now, I didn’t know any better. “My own house,” I said, “is steel and glass, but we’ve created a garden and interior spaces which are delightful–which you, yourself would probably like to publish.” “And yet,” I said to her, “in 1941, before you became associated with the magazine, House Beautiful published a Richard Neutra house–the Grace Lewis Miller House in Palm Springs. Neutra built that house; I think it was 1937. You published it in 1941–not you, but House Beautiful–and it was declared, by the then editor as ‘the most successful desert house is North America,’ÿ” quote/unquote. I still have that issue somewheres in my archives. But… [chuckles] She was alarmed, and I told her this because she could never believe that House Beautiful would be associated…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: With something like that.

JULIUS SHULMAN: But in later years, also about 1941–she was still not with the magazine; I can’t remember who the editor was–but the Lauritz Melchior House, you know, up here in the hills in Mulholland, not far from here, was designed by an architect by the name of Frederick Monhoff, and then Monhoff was an art deco artist primarily, and he did architectural interiors and exteriors of a rather nice quality. And House Beautiful published that house–this was after the house of Neutra. And this was a house–mainly because it was very richly decorated and quality-wise quite comfortable, attractive, with the art deco design elements. And I remember the headline of the article stated, “A Heroic Tenor Builds a Heroic House,” referring to the tenor Lauritz Melchior and his Wagnerian background.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But it just bridges the gaps, you see, between the conflict causes. Why House Beautiful in successive years attacked contemporary architecture, as we knew it then. But I can’t help but feel that as years went by, and I mentioned this to Elizabeth, “I wish,” I said to her, “if only we could relive those years from a mature point of view, I would be the first, now, to acknowledge that you were right.” And she was alarmed and astounded to hear me say this. Because here, the great Shulman, the world-famous photographer, and he’s associated with contemporary, beginning with the International style, the naked style, and yet, all of a sudden–and I say this again now, to you [to TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA–Ed.]–I would say that given the facts of my house, I see my early pictures how we furnished the interiors, influenced by [Raphael–Ed.] Soriano, influenced by the modernists like Neutra, who believed less is more… I used to take furniture out of houses. But…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Didn’t you have to go through that process precisely to now appreciate the differences?


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I mean, you’re saying if you could relive it as a mature person you wouldn’t have any of this sensibility. [laughs]

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, yes, not only in my own life, not only in my own experience, but also in the experience with the work I was photographing.


JULIUS SHULMAN: This is why, at her house that night, Gordon was angry with me, because she was implying–not just insinuating–the simple fact that my work–which was being so widely published with books and magazines all over the world, work with Neutra and that kind of architectural design philosophy–my work was naked because the architects didn’t want to show well-furnished interiors. It was fascinating because… And I was carried along.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I was young, I being influenced by this discipline.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: But it was a very important discipline, that…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Very much so. It created the nakedness that she, Elizabeth Gordon, was condemning from an editorial, shelter magazine point of view: How does the great American public live?

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Right, right. But the point of view of Neutra, of Soriano, was that one’s life could be quite simple, that you could appreciate, as we sit here today and appreciate these spaces that make sense and furniture that’s easy to accommodate one’s lifestyle. So one had, I think, to… I think the process that thinking went through in the forties and fifties was really important. As a historian, I’d be very unhappy if all of you hadn’t participated in that process, in that thinking through and making sense of that in the ways that you did.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It had great impact, yes. You’re entirely right. Because I went through that period, and I look at some of the early pictures I took in 1952–I think that’s when Progressive Architecture published this house–and the interiors were naked. How much furniture did we have? But I remember though, at the outset, we had purchased one chair. Jens Rissom, that wonderful Scandinavian designer, had designed furniture as his primary activity. And there was a club chair that I found at a decorator’s place out in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades. And it’s a very handsome, comfortable, not overly stuffed, overstuffed kind of chair. So I purchased it, and I had it in the living room, and Soriano had come up to see the house, visit with us. He still lived in L.A. He saw that chair, and his face turned red and he swore, he said, “Goddamn it, get that chair…” He used four letter words for sure.


JULIUS SHULMAN: “Get that chair out of this site. I will not come into the room until you take it out.” He was then–and always has been–till the day he died, he was always against anything which was not a severe line, structured, and extremely disciplined. And Neutra was the same way. And other architects thought, and [________–Ed.] [Nabell, May Bell], other early architects were pursuing that thought. Even Schindler, in his own way. He designed much of his own furniture.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Very eccentric. He designed a three-legged chair one time, as I remember, that people used to fall off of because unless you sat straight you would create a position of imbalance and the chair would topple over.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: [laughing] Oh, _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: See, this happened very often with furniture design, a design of discipline in a disciplined world. Now, in my case, as we began to evolve our need and feeling for comfort in our house, we got… We took out a big ten-foot-long, built-in couch of Soriano design in the living room because it was stiff and hard and wasn’t deep and comfortable. It looked good in the pictures. But we replaced it with a large, three-cushion, Indian-linen couch, a sofa, which is still one of my favorite pieces. It’s beautiful and comfortable. Then one day we got a couple chairs at the Pacific Design Center, in the furniture place, swivel chairs. But they also were so-called overstuffed, comfortable though. We picked up some pieces of some Danish egg chairs that Arne Jacobsen designed.

The first year they came out, in 1959, we were in Copenhagen that year photographing a report for the Architectural Forum magazine, “European Architecture in the Post-War Period.” And we met Jacobsen, photographed the construction of his Royal SAS Hotel in Copenhagen, and also photographed some schools with him that he had designed. And he was one of the early transitional architects between the international style…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …and what became successful as Scandinavian design, which today is still extremely successful. But the early chairs that we got, his egg chairs he designed, a line of chairs, which are very comfortable, we have two of them in our entrance hall of the house now. But we had those in our living room originally. People didn’t know how to sit in them in the beginning.


JULIUS SHULMAN: It was very humorous because unless you sat side-saddle, the way the chairs were designed you wouldn’t be as comfortable with your head back on the back of the chair. It was a very comfortable chair. But then, not stuffed, not overstuffed; it was hard. The comfort came from the shape of the chair.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But then, as time went on, we got other kind of furniture. We did buy other furniture in Denmark. Not overstuffed, but upholstered furniture. Then we got more furniture here, which we have today.

[Interruption in taping]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Your story, though, indicates again you had a specifically broad interest and a real knack for properly picking things and making sense of, say, issues of comfort, bringing this overstuffed chair in that Soriano couldn’t bear to tolerate. And yet you realized it was probably good design and comfortable, and perfectly acceptable in your house.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It was acceptable in the trade, shall we say. Other architects, no one ever condemned [the, a] chair. But, you see, it is evident now in light of the fact that Soriano, in the time he left the city here and moved up to Tiberon, in northern California, he never pursued his practice. People would not come to him. As he said here one time when he came down to meet students at SCI-Arc… They had a meeting of the sophomore class this year who wanted to study Soriano’s work. And in the conversation which ensued, he protested the fact that those bastards out there–the public and other architects involved–were compromising in the practice of the honest endeavor that an architect should and could pursue, referring to his discipline of the steel frame and metal and glass, hard surfaces which were the honest expression of how architects should continue to design. Well, the architectural world even failed to accept this because, as I said before, architects in the sixties and seventies departed from this world of severe architecture.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Soriano persisted, and therefore, as he said to the students that day, “I haven’t had a client for maybe thirty or twenty-eight years.” Which was true. He would do some lecturing and do little fix-up jobs; here or there people would toss him a bone. Really. He had sponsors who helped to finance his personal life. Then when he came down here just a few months or so before he died, he was given a position at Cal-Poly in Pomona to lecture, and somebody was subsidizing his living. They gave him a very nice retirement-home kind of apartment to live in. He was living out his life very comfortably and successfully, and when Cal-Poly gave him this wonderful, rousing reception one evening, and invited all the old-timers who knew Soriano from day one, he was a hero all over again. Then when USC [University of Southern California–Ed.] Architectural Guild gave him an award for being a successful twenty-five year practice, that was another highlight of his life. All this came later, just in the last few moments of his life.

He died just a few weeks, a couple of weeks after Cal-Poly gave him this dinner and this kudos at the school. And of course UCLA [University of California at Los Angeles–Ed.] I think did a oral history on his work. But it’s sad. It’s sad because the man was well meaning, very honest. He had great integrity. His early work shows it, and it shows it here in this house.


JULIUS SHULMAN: What you can achieve if you departed from the hard, militaristic discipline which the architects tried to force on you. The only condition I placed on Soriano in our house here, in the initial design period between ’47 and ’49, was that wherever we had a sliding door in our house, we would open it out to a screen porch, a screen terrace–which he didn’t quite fight, although he resisted, but he knew I meant it. Now our screen areas, which we have off our living, dining, and bedroom areas, really make the house as evidenced by the reaction of other people–architects, and editors, and publishers and architectural historians. They see this house; they see how it works. And other, as a result of that…

[Interruption in taping]

JULIUS SHULMAN: Now it points out then, in other words, that if we can enlighten clients two ways… One is to, as in the early years, not swallow everything that the architects try to convey to you. As evidence, for example, Richard Neutra did a house in Beverly Hills–the Heller House, which of course is long gone, and it’s torn down. They built a big two-story English Tudor house or something on that site. The owner of the house was so much taken by Neutra, she called Mrs. Neutra one day and she said, “Dione, I want to go downtown to Bullocks”–in those days, there was nowheres else to go but downtown–“and I want to buy some accessories, but I don’t want to offend Richard. I want to be sure anything I buy is something he would like. Would you go with me down…”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s interesting.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Dione herself told me this later on. What can she do, she didn’t want to offend the person. So she went with her, and they selected some cigarette boxes and ash trays and candy dishes and things to put on her coffee table–art objects for the house. In every case, she didn’t want to make it too hard–visually too hard. So she [Dione–Ed.] impressed this woman with a need to pick out some things that she would like. She would say, “Don’t worry about Richard. Richard wouldn’t condemn you for putting certain things on the coffee table.” And then Dione said–jokingly, but it was true–“And if Richard doesn’t like it, when he came to photograph the house, he would just remove them.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Which would happen. Okay.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: She knew very well.

[ Tape 4, side B]

JULIUS SHULMAN: I don’t know where they get the information. Somebody from the family, maybe.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: There’s a UCLA student writing a biography of S. Charles Lee, a Ph.D. student. Let me read the first sentence. Hold on just a second.


[Interruption in taping]

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: In Paul Goldberger’s words… I’ll read the opening sentence here to start our conversation. “In the 1960s the architectural photographer Julius Shulman took a picture of a glass house perched high in the Hollywood Hills that will always be, for me, one of those singular images that sums up an entire city at a moment in time.” Now, the comment you’ve just made in response to this, Julius, is that the image is both about that moment in time, but it’s also about a culmination in time, because it has to do with these architects wanting to represent something. You, as the photographer, coming along and representing the image, all of you had in interest that was enveloping many people at this point. Can you go on and tell me a little bit more about how this image has become so important recently?


JULIUS SHULMAN: Throughout the history of photography, there has been considerable controversy about the role of the photograph and/or the photographer in the representation of a so-called art statement. Now, what alarms me is that in the early years, particularly in the 1930s and even in the forties and certainly in the twenties, the art world thumbed their noses–physically–at photographers. They expressed a very specific opinion: that, quote, “Photography is a mechanical device. Photography is not art.” Then the question–jumping ahead–can be construed as asking why then has, say, the Metropolitan Museum and most museums… The Getty [Museum–Ed.] has a great collection of antique photographs, a hundred years old, more or less. Why is there, suddenly in the span of time, history, that we’ve discovered photography as an element of–not necessarily art; you can call it that… I found some pictures the other day I took in the 1930s, which I have out at the lab now. I sent the negative for my Vest Pocket pictures. And they’re pictures taken out near the San Jacinto River, out in the hot spring area near [Sepulveda], Gilman’s [Hot Springs–Ed.], that area. Marshland, pools were setting in the water, tide, water from the streams. And one of the pictures can be likened to a black-and-white representation of Corot, one of the early master French Impressionists. Now, getting back then, that’s an art form we’ll say. It can be likened to art even though it’s not painted. Getting back to this picture of that Pierre Koenig house. I, in essence of being a photographer, as in I think most of my work… I’m not modest about myself. I know for a fact that I am good. But good in the sense that I can put things together. I expound vociferously to students of architecture and photography, the significance of design. A photograph is a design in which you assemble thoughts in your mind.

[Interruption to answer telephone]

JULIUS SHULMAN: Now, here is the Pierre Koenig house. We’re working for days. Of course, we made a thorough coverage of that and all the other case-study houses–fifteen of them during those periods of construction and publication. The question in my mind is constantly about my photographs, “How did I assemble these thoughts? What sparked me to create this composition?” The elements are there. The two girls in the picture were the girlfriends of two of the young architectural associates of Pierre Koenig, students. And a very nice warm summer evening. I think I was told that they were coming and I had asked that they dress in light summer frocks, which they did. Not anticipating having them in the picture, any picture. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

So we worked, and it got dark and the lights came on and I think somebody had brought sandwiches. We ate in the kitchen, coffee, and we had a nice pleasant time. My assistant and I were setting up lights and taking pictures all along. I was outside looking at the view. And suddenly I perceived a composition. Here are the elements. I set up the furniture and I called the girls. I said, “Girls. Come over sit down on those chairs, the sofa in the background there.” And I planted them there, and I said, “You sit down and talk. I’m going outside and look at the view.” And I called my assistant and I said, “Hey, let’s set some lights.” Because we used flash in those days. We didn’t use floodlights because _____ _____ exposure for the interior. We set up lights, and I set up my camera and created this composition in which I assembled a statement. It was not an architectural quote-unquote “photograph.” It was a picture of a mood, and it’s what comes out forty years later–and more–in the statement by Paul Goldberger of the New York Times, in which he recognized that this picture is the embodiment of the spirit which we had hoped–Arts & Architecture, John Entenza–we had dreamed that this would be the essence of the ensuing decades, generations, of architecture in the Hollywood Hills. But there’s only house like that.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Strange. Now, this then can lead to other aspects of the thought process. What prompted me, in my lifetime, after never studying photography per se, never knowing I was going to be a photographer, to, in response to a request from the American Film Magazine… They needed a photograph of the San Fernando Valley without any houses or buildings in it.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Um hmm, the early years…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes. Because they’re doing a story about Jack Nicholson’s new picture called The Two Jakes. When the phone call came, my mind was sparked by the request and I said, “Yes, come on up. I think I’ve got something.” And I could put my hand on every picture I’ve ever taken fortunately. And this is another thing for photographers and architects and others to realize and to respond to: Don’t put your things in a shelf somewheres and don’t know where they are. So the man came up, I pulled out a photograph taken from the top of Mt. Hollywood looking over the San Fernando Valley without anything but farmland and ranches in the distance. A few little houses and buildings, but no development. And that was the lead picture in the story on the film. And that was a picture taken in 1933, I believe. I was not a photographer. I had a Vest Pocket Kodak camera. Why then, I ask, did I take the picture, just a snapshot? I think outlined against a cloud, way in the distance, was an aeroplane. In those days, it was a rare thing to see an aeroplane, and I took it for the sake of showing an aeroplane in that expanse of space.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And all of a sudden, fifty-five years later maybe, the picture is published in an important film magazine.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s extraordinary, isn’t it?

JULIUS SHULMAN: It is. Then in Angeles magazine, in the March issue, when they do a story about my career and whatever, they’re also using a picture I took from the top of Mt. Hollywood the same day, of four men standing up there outlined against the sky in their shorts and clothing they were wearing, raggedly dressed. But it made a beautiful tableau. That was also in that period of time. So it overwhelms me sometimes to realize that some of the pictures I took were awfully good in terms of the essence of expressing something at the time. And yet I was not a photographer.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: But what you’ve become is this extraordinary source of information, both because of your visual memory, but also you have this memory for facts and dates which is very _____, it’s impressive.

JULIUS SHULMAN: That helps. It does help because it makes me feel awfully good to know that I’m constantly conscious of my work, old as well as new. And I’ve got boxes over there behind me, those eight by ten boxes on my shelf next to the typewriter there. They’re full of old snapshots, and I reveal,

by combing through those pictures frequently, much of my personal background.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Look, I sold pictures everywheres, and I never was a photographer. I had been to UCLA and Berkeley, as I have mentioned, for seven years, no major. I didn’t know what I was going to be. I never dreamed of being a photographer until I met Richard Neutra in March 1936. That was the same month, almost, that I left Cal and Berkeley and came home, driving my 1932 six-wire wheel, side-mount, rumble-seat coupe. Beautiful car with red wheels.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Gray gunmetal. A beautiful car. So I whizzed down the street and came back home, at the end of February, and then I met Neutra by accident, you know, one of his draftsmen working for him who took the pictures of the Neutra Kun House, and I became a photographer that week. Because I showed the pictures to the young man, he showed them to Neutra, and Neutra asked me who I was, what I was. I said, “Nothing.” He asked me if I was a photographer. I said, “No.” [chuckles]


JULIUS SHULMAN: And he liked my pictures, and he put me to work. I met Soriano that same day I met Neutra. He pointed up to the hill above Silver Lake Boulevard on the top of the hill where Soriano was doing his Lipetz House, the first house he did. And we became good friends. And all of a sudden I met, in the ensuing weeks and months, year, Neutra, Schindler, Gregory Ain, and Harwell Harris, J.ÿR. Davidson. I met the whole kit and kaboodle of the school of architecture of that period. It’s a blessing. Really a lucky… I had a sister who introduced me to this young man, who Mrs. Neutra asked for, if she knew where he could rent a room. He had just come from Washington, D.C., and working for Neutra, and all of a sudden everything came together.

It’s like the composition of the Pierre Koenig House. Or the composition of that Neutra night, twilight Kaufman House picture in the Palm Springs Desert. I assembled that composition; that was an assembly of light elements. Of course, I took a continuous 45-minute exposure, closing and opening the shutter during times when I turned lights on and off in the house. I created a design, and this is where we can argue with the so-called art critics, couldn’t we? We could ask, “If an artist was there with his canvas, his palette, and started assembling forms and colors, could it not be said that I…” Even though the photographs we’re talking about were in black and white, the Pierre Koenig one I did in color as well.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh! But it’s the black and white that became the famous image.

JULIUS SHULMAN: But the black and white, because it’s easier to reproduce and the people who used it felt there was more than that, [and quit], because the representation, the drama of that space, precluded the need for color. An artist wouldn’t have done it as well with his palette of colors.


JULIUS SHULMAN: He would have been so occupied with proper, quote/unquote, “colors and forms.” I leapfrogged beyond the artist. I think that’s good. I think I like that thought, too. I hadn’t expressed it before. I think the photographer can go beyond the artist because, as I said before, using the term summation, I can create a summation of the total image of what was in the architect’s mind, the physical aspects of the structure, and, of course, the spirit, the nature of my photography ability to put together these elements. [For–Ed.] the time exposure, the girls were sitting in the room. We had turned on our lights first, and replaced the floodlights with flashbulbs, and we had everything set, and I had a flash control at my camera, and I took a seven-minute exposure of the lights, which is the lights flooding the plain down below the bottom of the hills overlooking Los Angeles. Then, when I felt I had enough time… And all this without a photographic meter. I don’t use meters. You grow and you learn. Then when I felt I had given enough time for the exposure, and I wanted to flash the interior, I called to the girls. I said, “Girls, sit up now and look pleasant. Look toward each other as if you’re talking and hold still for just a second and the flash will go off.” I pressed the release. All this time the shutter was open, and the flash illuminated the interior–some of the foreground and exterior, patio–and there came out the picture. I constructed–if we want to liken it to the art world–I constructed an art statement.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, in addition to all those things, let’s go on to this next image then and talk about that, because we can follow on the questions in this… This is one of your infrared images. And there is a subtle question in here, and that is, in your opinion, is photography meant to be an accurate representation, then, because as you describe it one way it can be very accurate of the architect’s intentions and the actual physical form and the world beyond the physical form. Or is it appropriate to include, then, the photographer’s imagination and the ability to invoke a certain sensation or spirit? When and where do you make those decisions on that very fine line?

JULIUS SHULMAN: That’s a good statement, good question, too, because last week by coincidence we got a call from a cable television company. They asked me to prepare to meet with them and have a filming, a taping, of some of my work and my philosophy. And the girl said, “Before you come down, before we meet, can you tell me what is your role? The purpose of photography, of architecture. It says so,” she said, “on your letterhead, on your card which somebody gave me. It says ‘Julius Shulman, Photographer, Photography of Architecture’.” I said, “Actually, the truth is that I am a merchandiser.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: “I sell architecture,” I said, “better and more directly and more vividly than the architect does.” And I went on to say to her, she stopped me after I said this, “She said save it for our tape.” I said, “The average architect is stupid. He doesn’t know how to sell. He’s not a merchandiser. He doesn’t know how to express his own image. He doesn’t know how to create a design of his image, (a) by photography or [(b)–Ed.] by the written or spoken word. And I do it. I’ve done it all my career over half a century, and it gets better.”

[Interruption in taping]

JULIUS SHULMAN: And then here we have a picture taken of a public park thing on the island, near Hilo in the big island of Hawaii. It’s an infrared photograph. We use infrared film because the trees become white. The lawn, the grass is white. The sky is dark, with beautiful clouds, and the ocean is black.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So it becomes this very surreal…

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s a surrealistic statement. Now, this picture shows only one little increment where the architect designed a building, part of the apartment.


JULIUS SHULMAN: It is like a pavilion. And yet the architect has a forty-by-sixty-inch print in his office of this photograph.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s great.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Which we shipped to Hawaii shortly after this was made. This was taken at least 1975. The architect said that everyone who comes into his office, “Wow!”


JULIUS SHULMAN: Quote/unquote. Everyone says, “Wow!”


JULIUS SHULMAN: They’re at a loss. “My God!” Because people aren’t familiar with this kind of photography.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, this is so extraordinary because of course we can recognize that there are palm trees and we can recognize all the elements, but we are a bit dumbfounded because we’re not used to seeing things–you know, white palm trees and dark skies and dark ocean. You as the photographer, having a skill in using this technique…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Visualizing.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …visualizing the technique, you’re already ahead of the world in the ability to know that you can see things this way. The rest of us are kind of like “Wow!” you know. We are still dumbfounded by this.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, I do the same thing in my own life, with my own pictures.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I am constantly finding things. Like this, this was just the other day. It’s an old print; as you can see, it’s wrinkled. I don’t know where. I got it out of the file somewheres, it’s been thumbmarked and…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: It’s been handled.

JULIUS SHULMAN: …handled a lot. It’s been published so many places. We get pictures back from many magazines and then they manhandle them. I keep them in my file anyway.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Because like now it’s something great to talk about. And then I put together these wonderful things. This thing about Jack Nicholson. Here’s a picture taken before I became a photographer. Fulfills a need for an expression.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: But it also fulfills a historical… It’s a valuable source.


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And you are in this tremendously privileged position because you’ve stayed in the area, you have documented the area, and you have this extraordinary memory for things. So that you’re not a lost source at all. You’re this wealth of information, and that’s…

JULIUS SHULMAN: It goes on and on. Well, similar, that picture of the San Fernando Valley. I was coming home on Mulholland from an assignment back in the middle seventies, early eighties, and it was one of those great clear wind-swept days, cirrus clouds in the sky, and the valley was beautiful. Pulled off the side of the road on Mulholland near Beverly Glen, and I set up the camera and I took a photograph, in color, because I thought, “This is a cherished moment.” And in our book, Los Angeles Lost and Found, I had worked on as a consultant with Sam Hall Kaplan, that photograph is the lead, double-page picture in the opening of the book. Now, again, I liken that picture to the one I did in 1933 when the San Fernando Valley was empty. That was black and white. But it doesn’t make any difference, black and white or color, if you have a strong statement. Which both pictures represented–a new one and an old picture. So we go on and on and on producing statements. Not just photographs. Not just so-called images. I detest that term that many photographers and writers and others use. They ask, “How many images do you have of a building?” And I respond by asking in turn, “Images? I take photographs. Don’t you mean how many photographs do I have?”


JULIUS SHULMAN: Because we’re talking about… Not an image. The image comes later if you want to … The image is what you see of yourself in the mirror perhaps, or something symbolic, whatever. But in photography, we’re specifically taking photographs, very. So these things happened all through my life.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: But isn’t this photograph… I mean, it does go one step beyond being just a mere photograph.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s imagery. It’s an image.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah, but I don’t use the image as a noun…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …grammatically, see. Okay.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I agree, but… No, I agree, that this isn’t physically an image. But it’s interesting because you’re also putting your finger on this subtlety maybe, sloppiness in language, where people haven’t spent the time thinking about the difference between a photograph that’s just a representation, an accurate representation, and a photograph that is yet something else. People are a little bit sloppy in…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Sloppy is right.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …categorizing _____ _____ or…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well-known speakers are guilty of using the word, an invented term or word, “parameter.” I couldn’t find it in my big dictionary.


JULIUS SHULMAN: They are talking within the framework or perimeter of a space, a term, a statement. But they’ll say it to somebody in a television interview, “Tell me Mr., Dr. so and so, within the parameter of your work…” Sounds good to say it. They way they loosen the term through the tip of their tongues. Perimeter is the word. Perimeter refers to a space, an area, bounded by physical or a…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yes, the outside edge of it.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah. Within the perimeter of your life, your statements, your photography, your writing. So why do they say parameter?

Here’s another example of a picture taken in Uruguay, [Puerta del Esta], that place, that wonderful town between Uruguay and Buenos Aires where the La Plata River comes through to the ocean. Someone has a very palatial home with a swimming pool overlooking the ocean, overlooking the water. And it was taken without infrared, regular film. But the light [was–Ed.] shining right back directly towards the camera and the sparkle on the pool, which is in the foreground, a spiral stairway going down to the pool, and out against the middle distance is the ocean and a retaining wall and a wall that goes out like a little levee out to the ocean. There’s some people walking along there. It’s a very vividly dramatic photograph, which I found the other day in my file. It was taken for, this must have been taken in 1967. Here we are.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And it has the similar sort of sense of drama as the infrared one.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes, it has the same contrast. Vivid.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yes, _____ _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I took this for the architects who wanted a picture… I was photographing the whole house. But I wanted that picture of the pool. And they were standing down below the pool looking at the pool back towards the house. I went back up the stairway with my camera, and I said, “Let’s look back towards the light.” I always photograph, as often as I possibly can, looking into the light–not with light behind me because it flattens out the image. I create an impact, a dimension, by using backlight, as we call it. Where the light is [spark, smart], and you have to shield your lens so the light doesn’t flare, the light from the sun doesn’t flare on your negatives. But if you shield it properly, you can create a dimensional strong impact of lights and darks, which is the same thing with that other infrared picture we showed you in Hawaii. Here we are thousands of miles away in Uruguay.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, does that technique allow for a greater quality of line if the…


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …if you’re shooting into the light will you get…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes, yes it delineates the…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …better definition?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes, because all elements are catching a framework of the edges.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes! Matter of fact, one of my lectures I gave to some architects regarding photography was defined with a statement, “Watch the edges.” Watch the edges. Define the edges, in other words. This is what… By the way, this picture starts at the very edge of the picture, and it sweeps you back up.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It’s composition. It’s great, it’s an exciting thing to me after all these years to discover–rediscover– so much of the significance of my career, my personal work, how it’s affected me and how I respond to it myself. It’s another dimension.

Oh, this is the letter I got from young… Here is another dimension.


JULIUS SHULMAN: A young architectural student, Christopher Flack, edits a newsletter magazine for the SCI-Arc people–Southern California Institute of Architecture–and the magazine’s called Off-Ramp, and he called me one day, and he came up and he interviewed me about my work, and he wanted us to publish a little article in the Off Ramp publication. He sent this to me. He wrote this out; this is a transcription. And he suddenly finds himself in Lugano, Switzerland, where SCI-Arc has a branch.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: A retreat, yeah, a villa.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yes. And he’s there now. He sent this to me. And then the young lady is coming up on Wednesday morning to continue the interview. She’s taking his place while he’s in school. I opened this statement to him, I said, as a headline, “Don’t dangle photographic [prepositions, propositions].”


JULIUS SHULMAN: And he wrote this little _____ architectural photography. Anyhow, but here again another offshoot of my career.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, you spend a lot of time responding to students from what I gather, the things you’ve mentioned.


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: The students who are, not photography students, but other students. I mean obviously you have your photography students as well, so…

JULIUS SHULMAN: So it comes out continuously, and in this package I picked up… Oh yes, there’s another thing I wanted to bring out, too, which we can perhaps at this moment. You may remember we spoke about accuracy in reporting.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Going to the sources. Now S. Charles Lee died last week. S. Charles Lee was one of the world’s most prominent theater architects, of the 1930s especially. And I photographed much of his work when I began. I can’t remember how I ever met him. He did the art deco _____.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Was he originally a Los Angeles native?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah. More or less. I forget where he was born, but he practiced here.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: But spent his career here.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Mostly. And especially in that period of time. Now, I photographed many, many of his theaters. The article mentions in the obituary that he did 5,000 factory buildings, which is impossible for one man to do in a lifetime even though he died at the age of 91 or thereabouts. No one does that much work.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Schindler had worked a good part of his life. Longer, I think, even that Charles Lee did, because Schindler began his work in Europe, in Vienna, and then also continued here in this country after… He came here about 1913 or ’14. Worked with Frank Lloyd Wright. Schindler, they’ve learned that in estimating and appraising his work after he died, had done two or three hundred houses.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Which is a lot of work! So how can one man do five thousand factories? Let alone the theaters he did. Hundreds of things. He didn’t do hundreds of theaters. I knew Charles Lee, and I knew him well enough to understand how he worked. He had a large… In that day it was a pretty large staff. He ground out a lot of work. But not that, in numbers. But the point is about all this, it can be represented as saying, or asking… When you told me that somebody at UCLA is doing an essay or a paper…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …a biography…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …on S. Charles Lee. Why, I asked–and this happens frequently–why wasn’t I called? Doesn’t she know through the grapevine or through general public knowledge that Uncle Julius was there, worked with dear Charles Lee and we were good friends? I photographed most of his work. When I began in the thirties into through the forties at least. And matter of fact I’m on the L.A. Lost and Found book, we have a cover picture of the Academy Theater…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …of the work that S. Charles Lee designed. Now, where is there a missing link in communication?


JULIUS SHULMAN: Somebody in New York published a book called Picture Sources years ago. Some person had the idea that we need some publication which would spell out sources of the photographs, particularly. Where can a writer, a publisher, TV person, anyone, go to get a photograph of a certain building, certain specialty, any kind of photograph, food, or fine arts or fashion?

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That would be a tremendous source.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, the book…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: How do you get access to material? I mean, that’s the other question.

JULIUS SHULMAN: How do you get access to that book?


JULIUS SHULMAN: See, there’s where the trouble came in. People would call me from New York–publishers, editors–and they would ask me about my work, who I have… “Didn’t you ever see that book called Picture Sources?” “Never heard of it.” And there again is the thing we talked about before: merchandising.

Now, my book on photography of architecture and design was wonderfully publicized. Much of it by myself because I lecture all over the countryside, and wherever I went I brought my books along. And I preface my slide show, or whatever statement I was going to make, by holding up the book and saying, “Now look, those of you who are interested in the photography of architecture must obtain a copy of my book.” I held it up for the audience, and we sold a lot of books.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And as a result, institutions who were sponsoring the program didn’t have to pay me an honorarium as much as they would have if I didn’t make money from selling my own books. My book went into three printings. Which is [an] unheard of thing in this kind of a photography book, I was told.

Now, people learn about my material in the process of realizing I was a source, and it goes on and on and on today like the case study house program that MOCA has produced. My goodness, all over the world–Germany, France, England, Switzerland, South America, Australia– people are writing to me asking for photographs, pictures which are right by the fingertip in my files. It’s alarming to me that these things can happen. But I was going to say something else too about accuracy. The Architecture Review in London published an issue of the review…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: …on California, on L.A.

JULIUS SHULMAN: …on Los Angeles architects. It’s called “New Light on L.A.”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That was December 1987.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It was a double issue, December ’87. They had a couple of their representatives, a couple young ladies came out here. The thrust of the article was on the “new architecture,” post modern. Much of it a lot of junk. But I can condone that, because even though I don’t believe in it–I think it’s a horrible disgrace to the term of architecture–but the statements written by well-known authorities–[Kurt–Ed.] Forster, [Kenneth–Ed.] Frampton, and other writers– filled with such misquotations, misrepresentations. And I complained about this to one of the girls, who was still out here when the issue came out, and she said, “I’ll tell Peter Davies, the editor.” I got a letter from him inviting me to respond in the form of a letter to him, and he would publish this as a rebuttal to his article. I sent him a three-page letter in which I denounced, by quoting word for word from what the editor, what the writer said, I said, “This is not true. And here is the reason why it’s not true.” “Remember,” I said in my letter, “I was there from day one. These architectural writers weren’t even born.” Which is true. Many of ’em are youngish, _____ _____. I’m older than everyone these days.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I’ll be eighty years old this coming October, so I’m getting on. But I have the cherished feeling of authority. I can express myself.


JULIUS SHULMAN: On camera, on microphone.


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: I don’t hesitate. And I can write. I wrote a three-page letter to Mr. Davies. He didn’t respond.


JULIUS SHULMAN: He didn’t respond. But this is not the end yet, of course. I’m going to still keep this. That’s why I put my hand on it so quickly. It’s a three-page letter. I’m going to use this as an educational tool, for writers especially. Don’t create a mistake. Olivier Boissiere, this French writer who did the monograph on Soriano’s [Adolph] plant, he prefaced the monograph with a statement about Los Angeles. I was aghast! Again, and he came to see me right after he sent me that, and I had made some notes on his article. I said, “Olivier. Here. How do you reconcile this statement you made about the hotdog stands that we have, the hamburger stands, the Plush Pup, all these things in the eating a hamburger or Brown Derby thing, Chili Bowl. Don’t give the implication, as you did specifically, that in the area around Fairfax and Hollywood, and whatever, there are many of these buildings. You give the indication, the implication, that you can walk up and down the streets in Hollywood and see all these crazy buildings. But I don’t even know why you even mention this. It’s not important. You’re talking about Soriano.” And Soriano was a man who was an extremely objective person in his own design expression. He was so specific that I chose him to be my architect for our house and studio up here in the hills, because I knew him well. We became good friends, although I had known Neutra a few hours before–we met the same day.


[Microphone interference obscures portions of the conversation in this portion of the tape–Trans.]

JULIUS SHULMAN: But from the first day one, Soriano and I became friends and we could communicate with each other. And I chose him, and after forty-some-odd years living here, working here, in this hideaway up in the hills, I am blessed by the fact that I did choose Soriano. And I’m very honest about this. I could not have gotten the same communication process with Neutra as I did with Soriano. And I’ve said this publicly. Now, Soriano was able to create these spaces for me, _____ _____ structure. I didn’t hamper his design; I gave him just one condition about our screen terraces, which are related to immediate sliding doors in the three parts of our house. But that’s all. The rest is all his own design. And it’s perfect for my purpose. After so many years it functions beautifully.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And you found Soriano intellectually exciting then and…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Oh yes, this man was so fluent in his speech. He could speak many, many languages. He could communicate with people. He was an admirable person. You can love that man, because he, albeit his work denied it, he could be a great, wonderful human being. He was. But architecturally he had arrived at what he construed as the millennium: all houses had to be a steel framework with a modular design in the construction. He likened his music to [Johann Sebastian–Ed.] Bach, and he played his music to his architecture, to Bach. And as a result, he didn’t have any clients, as he used to complain for twenty-five, thirty years. He would never move away from this structured method of design. We can forgive him for that because he was good at it.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, it was obviously his way of understanding the world.


TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And one can never take… You know, who are we to question or challenge or take that away? Even if it isn’t how we understand the world.

JULIUS SHULMAN: He considered himself a Messiah, the Messiah. Really. Without saying it.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s interesting, isn’t it?

JULIUS SHULMAN: This was _____.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Was he a musician, in his life? Esther McCoy writes in Second Generation that he bought a violin as soon as he possibly could with his first money earned in the United States. Did he continue playing music through his life?



JULIUS SHULMAN: No. When I knew Soriano, from 1936 on, I never knew of him playing an instrument.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: So it was just an appreciation of music.

JULIUS SHULMAN: What she may have construed as music activity could have been his dedication to playing recordings of music all the time. He had the most magnificent collection of Bach and Mozart music, especially. And primitive music. He had recordings of drum, timpani recordings from Africa. He loved the rhythms of these African musicians playing the drums.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s _____ _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: But it responded, again, to the discipline that Bach expressed in his music.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: _____ _____, it’s very structured.

JULIUS SHULMAN: But he overlooked one important thing, as was evidenced in his reverence for Bach. Bach also in his inventions and his decorative elements in his music created friezes, architectural-type friezes, in his music, with his music. And Bach’s music was frequently considered as being baroque, and when this was pointed out to Soriano at some mass meeting when he was giving a slide show and a lecture and playing some of Bach’s music to liken the structure of the music to his Toccata and Fugue, for example… He would play that, and then he would say, “Now isn’t this like…” and he would show a slide on the screen of one of his buildings. And he would sing, “Bom, bom, bom…” [Shulman is singing the melody–Trans.] He would always repeat the “Bom, Bom, Bom.” And the audience would laugh, because… Then somebody in the audience got up and made the statement about how Bach’s inventions and friezes and decorative baroque elements, which Soriano immediately denied and/or disregarded. But he was such a likable guy, yet people laughed and chuckled and said, “Well, what the heck.” [chuckling] What can you do with a guy who’s so dedicated?


JULIUS SHULMAN: And Soriano was instrumental in creating a body of work which today is very significant.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Like Elaine Jones said one day. We talked about Soriano and A. Q. Jones. [See, Said] these men were instrumental in creating spaces. The clients can do what they wanted to the spaces–like in our house. Look what we’ve done to the interior. Had nothing to do with architecture. It’s our own design. And my wife actually created all of those spaces. And the garden: We didn’t need a landscape architect, although Garrett Eckbo at the beginning created a design which Soriano turned down. Some of the elements are still here, but most of them were our own infusing of landscape material. But Soriano did not receive public acclaim.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Earlier you mentioned [Charles–Ed.] Eames and the Washington Boulevard Studio. Will you reflect a little bit on that and tell me about your memories of that place, and how Eames created this really such an interesting network of designers and people he had near him.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah. I think the Eames institution could be likened to that of a cathedral. When you walk into a cathedral–any one of scores of cathedrals in Europe… What’s that great one in England, Shrewsbury?

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, there’s one in Shrewsbury.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Shrewsbury is to me one that comes to my mind the quickest, although Notre Dame and all the others are great. But something about the scale of Shrewsbury. You walk into any one of the cathedrals, even Westminster, wherever you go in Europe, you have a sense of not only reverence, but you can begin to evaluate the nature of man’s greatness. Now, Eames assembled, on Venice Boulevard, a like phenomenon. He created an institution, a cathedral of design.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s really nice.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Because, here’s a man of such sensitivity. He represented to me… I’ve said this to people many times. They sort of laughed, “Ha, ha,” when I suggested that Charles Eames was like Leonardo da Vinci or like Michaelangelo, but especially da Vinci. That he was a counterpart in nineteen, the twentieth century, that he represented man’s epitome of creativeness, because whatever he did, he did to perfection. When I did my new book on photography, he had agreed to do the foreword, make a statement. [But, At] that time he got tied up… What was that wonderful exposition he did, Jefferson and who’s the other president adjacent to that period? Slips my mind. But he did research for years, and when that exposition was done he had created a masterpiece of design, reflecting the history of that period of the United States. He did those great expositions for IBM, the mathematical demonstrations at the Science and Industry Museum, which are and were witnessed by thousands and thousands of school children. The man was an educator. His collection of toys, his films. His photography! He was perfect at everything he did. Designing… And all of this is reflected in his cathedral on Venice Boulevard. And then came the time we saw at MOCA [Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles–Ed.] the film of how this place was destroyed, dismantled, and the pieces scattered willy-nilly, helter-skelter all over the world. And then a lot of people were in tears while that film was being shown because it was being dismantled, torn down. And the Eames Demetrios filmed it, and he showed the film at MOCA, and we were all shocked because none of us had known it was being torn that way. And some would say, “Well, it’s okay. The furniture’s going to this museum in Switzerland and pieces going here and there.” That’s not the same. I was sorry, because I was hoping–we’ve said this many times–that building was standing there for a hundred years, who knows how many years, good part of a century. And we’ve had earthquakes. And it withstood, and wouldn’t it be better I thought, and many agreed, if we let the building stand, and if it were injured or demolished or fractured by a seismic force, it would a better fate than have it all being torn apart and dismantled and no one is going to see the material anyhow. The fabrics and designs and furniture and the step-by-step evolution of some of his masterful pieces. All this is gone now.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And we haven’t had a earthquake since and I don’t think we’ll have an earthquake after. So why couldn’t they wait? What was the hurry?

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: [laughs] Oh, yeah.

JULIUS SHULMAN: It was like the dismantling of many buildings. Just like the Hall of Records downtown that was demolished but they couldn’t fit and they replaced it with the Criminal Justice Building next to… The Hall of Records was one of the masterpieces of our architectural history. Fortunately, I have a good picture of it, but the point is that… The argument was, the County Board of Supervisors said, “Well, we can’t air-condition the building.” And air-conditioning experts would say, “There’s no such thing. We can always find some way of running ducts.” There’s so many ways for modern technology. But so the building was destroyed. The Coulters Building on Wilshire Boulevard, that wonderful Coulter department store, was one of the best examples of art deco we’ve ever had in our history. I photographed that for Stiles Clements in 1937, I remember. And it was destroyed to be replaced by some crappy building–post modern. We have to learn to evaluate history.

And this brings us to what you’re saying, too, about this little book that you’ve picked up, A Guide to Contemporary Architecture in Southern California. No one knows about this book.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, it’s a gem.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Alvin Lustig was a designer. Alvin Lustig was a man no one knows. “Alvin who?” they ask. Alvin died at a young age, but we had a meeting for a long time. This was done in 1951, and it tells the story of architecture with maps. It was a forerunner of…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …of Gebhard’s Guides, surely it was. And as a matter of fact they got ideas from this book. Even have my own house here. Look at this.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, and it was…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Before our screen porches were finished. Looks good.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Um hmm. Brand new house.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Isn’t that nice? [No, A little] screening here. Isn’t that wonderful? 1950 this was, this picture must have been taken about 1951, about the time when we did the… [It was clean and neat wasn’t it? It looks clean and neat doesn’t it?] [both chuckle] And the point is, here’s a book that no one knows about.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And [Pietro–Ed.] Belluschi was one of the people working with us. He spent two or three days down here. Dean [Arthur–Ed.] Gallion of USC was instrumental, worked with us, and some of the students. And the book lists publications, architects, works. And then you’ve called my mind and Elizabeth Mock, who was one of the people at the Museum of Modern Art in those years, was a sister to Catherine Bauer up north, and I didn’t know that until now. You see how things come together. And in the back it lists some of Elizabeth’s…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Mock’s publications.

JULIUS SHULMAN: …books or publications. And all of a sudden, we get a full circle, all over again.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: The circle becomes…

JULIUS SHULMAN: And then we pick up the Gordon Drake book, and people again ask, “Gordon who?” Gordon used to work with Harwell Harris until the war, then after he got out of the Marines he did his own work and became very successful. He died at an early age of a tragic accident. But you see these books and you see the information.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: They’re just gems.

JULIUS SHULMAN: You know what I said when I was giving a two-week course, a lecture/seminar series at Technische Hochschule, the School of Architecture in Vienna? I was taken in to see the Bibliotek. Great, magnificent library. One of those old-fashioned European libraries. Forty-foot-high ceilings, a great hall. The shelves full with leather-bound volumes of the history of architecture, of mankind. You’ve never… I, I just couldn’t take my… I was taken in there and, my God, I wanted to genuflect. I said, “God!” Speaking of a cathedral.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Here is… I said to the dean–August Sarnitz was with us; we did the book on Schindler–and I forget who the dean of the school was. I don’t remember names. But I said to the men, “My God, why don’t you close up the rest of the School of Architecture…” The School of the Academy of Building Arts and the Technische Hochschule is were Schindler graduated in nineteen…


JULIUS SHULMAN: He graduated the year I was born, in 1910, something like that. Fantastic tie, all these things come together. I said, “If I were teaching architecture, I would bring the students in here. You’ve got these great big tables–good lighting, by the way–and these great big ladders taking you up to the top of the books. Everything about architecture is here.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: “Why can’t you teach architecture here? Do the students use it?” Nah, “they’ll sometimes come in when they’re doing a little historical piece.” “But it’s all been done,” I said. They thought I was crazy because I was so excited. [chuckling]


JULIUS SHULMAN: But, you see, this gets us back to what we were talking about here. In the process of evaluating not only my experiences in architecture, but evaluating man’s ability to put together such great wonderful buildings. And I’m saying this very openly, too, outside of the area of men like Frank Gehry and Michael Graves, who do the ugly, sickening kind of [thing, things]. To me, it’s a sin. Because these men are not paying attention to the detail, the beauty. You made a comment about Gordon Drake’s work, how thoughtful.


JULIUS SHULMAN: What a sense of integrity. And I must say, when I met Gregory Ain in 1937, some mutual friend took me to meet him. I walked into a room–I think I told you this perhaps–but I walked into this drafting room in some little house. He worked at home or wherever. In those days, Gregory was a young man, and he was just beginning his own practice. And here he was sitting with his associate, George Agron, who I knew very well. George was a brilliant, brilliant man. He smoked too much, I remember. He died of cancer. But anyhow, they were discussing a house. I can’t remember which house they were doing. I can look it up in my records. And Gregory acknowledged us as we walked in; he said, “Just a minute. We’re just finishing something here.” So we sat over here and listened to the conversation. George Agron was saying, “You know Gregory, I think in this room, if we were to move this wall about twelve inches, thus, we would open up that much more space and we would take away the extra space we have in the adjacent area which really doesn’t have to be that large.” And they were going back and forth on that one line. They had tracing paper over the board and Gregory said, “Let’s see how it looks.” So they put the tracing paper over it and drew that line. I have never forgot that line. Here are two mature men–young men of course, but they were mature beyond the years compared to some of the junk that’s going on today–and they were discussing that, “Let’s see how it looks.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: They were working on one line. Now, how many architects today ever worked on a line in architecture? They don’t. They’re too busy, first. Second of all, as they grow more successful, they stop working and they have associates [great, create, right], and these young architectural people come in in their firms–junior partners and whatever is involved in expanding a firm. Then they hire public relations people, who come along and start doing the publicity and promotion for the firm. And I recall now vividly men like [William–Ed.] Periera and Welton Becket and other top-notch people, [Charles–Ed.] Luckman, saying to me, “Hey Julius, we got another building we want you to photograph. When can you do it?” I said, “Well,” I looked at my calendar. In those years I wasn’t too busy, I could do it the same week or the next week. “Okay. Okay Charles”–referring to Luckman–I said, “Charles, where is the building?” “Oh, just a minute, I’ll get you the address.” And I hear him calling, “Oh, Henry, where is the such and such a building?” I said, “Well, Charles, while you’re waiting for them to get the address, will you tell me which direction the building faces?” “Henry, which way does the building face?” It turns out that Charles Luckman had never seen that building. He shook hands with the client with one hand and got the check in the other hand for the preliminaries, and that was his extent of association with architecture. This is not talking out of school. This is true.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, when did architectural offices change in that respect and become these large practices rather than…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, I could tell you specifically with…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Because Neutra, for example, kept a small office.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, because Neutra wouldn’t let loose. Neutra wouldn’t even let me take a picture without his looking in the ground glass.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Without him being there. Right.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Under the ground glass. How many times he’d push me away.


JULIUS SHULMAN: “Let me look.” Let me look. And I’m like, Quickset tripod had a crank on it. He said, “Okay.” He had his eyes adjusted to seeing it upside down. He was good at that. And he’d say, “Okay, loosen the knob so I can turn the camera sideways.” So I’d loosen the control knob, and then he would turn and, “Now lock it there,” he would say. “Okay. Now crank it up.” So I’d have Carlos [________–Ed.], my assistant, whoever was with me at the time, I’d be standing at Neutra’s shoulder, “Okay, crank. Whoop. Go back a little bit. Whoop. Now tighten that crank. That’s it.” Neutra’s good that way. Now Periera and Luckman. Luckman had a problem with the Lever House. He was a young genius at the financial world of Lever Brothers in New York. He said, “To hell with it!” one day and decided to go back to his first love, which was architecture. He had studied architecture.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: What was his first name?



JULIUS SHULMAN: And about that time, William Periera had done the Lee County Hospital in Hobbs, New Mexico, which we went out to photograph. Bill Periera worked on that hospital himself, because he was notoriously known all over the profession for the fact that if you went into their office, here is Bill Periera… At one time they had an office on Beverly Boulevard not far from LaÿCieniga. And here’s Bill Periera, his shirt sleeves rolled up and a green visor on his forehead and a pencil behind his ear, and usually a pencil in his teeth or something. But he was working. He was a working architect. And about that time, Luckman looked up Bill, because they knew… I think they’d gone to school together and they decided to form Periera and Luckman, AIA. Now, it turns out that Charles said to Bill, “Let’s see how we could structure our organization.” So, it seems that Bill said, “Well, I’ve done the Grossmont Hospital down in San Diego area, and I’ve done the Hobbs, Lee County Hospital in New Mexico…” “That’s it,” Luckman said, we’ll become, we’ll announce ourselves as hospital authorities.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: Bill was good. Luckman had nothing to do with it. Luckman was promotion. But he was great. He still is. So they formed a specialty, and they got to be a big organization and the first thing they did was hire a PR firm. This was in the early fifties. That’s about the time that Periera–or Wurdeman & Becket–and other large firms did the same thing. I can go right down the line. All I’ve got to do is look through my record book and read the names of the firms, and I could tell you exactly, because it would tell you who we did the pictures for, the architects or the PR firm.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Daniel, Mann, & Johnson, all those big firms that we had, huge firms. Some are still are existing. Gruen Associates. Victor Gruen was still alive. Victor worked with me on all the assignments. He’s a European background. He knew the value, like Neutra did, of good photography.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Of being there, yeah.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I remember when we photographed that Fifth Street store there by the airport. There was an offshoot of the Fifth Street store downtown. Fifth and Hill Street we did this big department store circular. Beautiful. We went in there before the building was occupied and no garments, nothing. Just wanted some strictly naked architectural scenes. We went into one of the departments on the main foyer, and there was a large number of scotch-taped instructions for the employees to follow the next day or two or so. Instructions. And Victor Gruen walked up to these papers and tore them off the wall.


JULIUS SHULMAN: He created a scandal, because I was down the next day, these employees were coming in, and these were their instructions.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Lots of lost people.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Threw all these papers away.


JULIUS SHULMAN: But the funniest thing is that we had working with us–we worked at night–some of the top… Four top young architectural students from USC were there. Ed Killingsworth, and Peter Kamnitzer. Well-known names in the field today were there working as students, helping us with photography. What I’m trying to say is that the early years we had architects working, instrumenting their public relations efforts–photography of course–and discussing. But as years went by, the architects would never come with me. I was sad, because I would say, “Look, let’s work together. Let’s discuss the composition.” Especially in the years when we began to use Polaroid four-by-five, black-and-white Polaroid film. I’d say, “Look, we’ll take a Polaroid picture, and let’s study it and maybe you may feel that if we move the camera one or two inches one way or another, get a better statement, something more definitive.” And the architects would usually, mostly say, “No, you know better than we do. Better than I do. You just go ahead and do it. You’re good at it.” Well, I said, “I know I’m good at it, but that’s not the point. I want to discuss each composition.” So sometimes they would acquiesce and take a quick run-through, and then run away and go back to their office. Now this has happened so many times in the history of my career that it’s very disillusioning because photography has become an instrument where the architects are too busy to worry about… There are some good photographers, of course. And we all do good pictures, as evidenced by what we’ve been talking about. And we see things that the architects don’t see. But that’s not the issue. The issue is communication, and that’s part of the whole background we’re talking about.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, do you feel the profession of architecture changed in any way because of this, because of the growth and because of, then, this breakdown in communication? Did the profession become perhaps less personal? I mean, that would be the obvious _____ _____. [glitch in tape]

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, you look through the architecture magazine of the AIA, and month after month… I’ve got huge stacks of them by the way, if anyone wants them. I’ve got extra copies they sent. They gave me a double mailing list, and I have two copies of everything. But anyhow, you look at those pictures and they’re beautiful photography. All in color, mostly. And it’s not like it was when you had this copy of the AIA Journal, when they had on the cover a black and white picture of that Frank Hope Coliseum in San Diego. That was on the cover as a black and white story, part of a story I was doing on architecture–on lighting and shadows in architecture. But that was the gist, the thrust of the AIA Journal in those days. I did off several articles for the Journal. One was called “Photography as a Design Award Catalyst”–where I discussed the using of different lenses to create different effects–“Accuracy of Photography,” another one about… Well, anyhow we’ll go on to that another time. But the point I’m making is, then as the architecture profession enlarged and we had much more multi-million-, multi-hundred-million-dollar projects, the magazines that you see, the things that you see on an architect’s desk now are filled with pictures, beautiful photographs, in color, of these great big institutional buildings, expensive buildings. And much of the expense, I feel, is a veneer, it’s a facade, that the architects put on the buildings, and the clients like this because the clients want architecture that creates an impact on their clients, their customers.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Insurance company, or financial institutions, they want people to be impressed when they come into their buildings, and you see the strange things that are being done in the name of architecture. It’s strange, we’re in a strange world of turmoil now in the architectural field. I think the success of the MOCA exhibit [Art & Architecture’s Case Study Houses], where they revive the values of the integrity of the architecture of the forties and fifties, something good is coming of that.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, I think so too.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Maybe what we’re doing here, in terms of this appraisal of my work… And of course I came across yesterday when we were preparing a slide lecture for the L.A. Conservancy for April, I have portraits of Stiles Clements. After all, Stiles Clements went way back. His firm was Morgan, Walls, and Clements. They did the original Jefferson High School art deco. I’ve got a picture of that, as a matter of fact. It was done in 1935, and I photographed it about 1936. And here’s Stiles Clements in one of the pictures. He’s sitting at a desk. [We, He] set it up, and two women with–his clients–with gloves and hats, the clothing of the period. And he’s leaning over the pencil discussing something. Here’s Mr. Clements, the architect, discussing with his clients one of his jobs. Another time I got a picture of Paul Williams standing in his library in his office. He actually had a library of books, architectural books. I have photographs of some of the early architects in action. They were one-man firms practically. I’ve got a picture of A.ÿC. Martin, Sr., with his two sons, Albert, Jr., and Edward, the engineer. And that was when they still had their offices on Fourth and Morrison Street, Fourth and [Beaudry], downtown, a small little building. And A.ÿC., Senior, introduced me to his son about that time, to Albert, Junior. He said, “This is my son, Albert. He’s just came out of the school of architecture at SC.” [chuckles]


JULIUS SHULMAN: So that’s how far back these go. But A.ÿC. Martin, Sr., was a working architect. He worked with John Austin at the city hall, work of that kind. He was amazingly prolific. I call these men political architects, because they had great political connections. Their architecture wasn’t all that great, but it was useful. It had integrity and performed their function. And maybe this is what… We can retrace our steps in terms of how this appraisal will be developed into a book form, or we can help to maybe create a resurgence and revival of the background of our architecture before it goes so far afield that we never want to look at the old buildings.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Or they’ll all be destroyed.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, as you mentioned the Eames office being torn down. I mean, it seems to me a real common occurrence here in L.A. currently to raze buildings, houses, everything.

JULIUS SHULMAN: [sotto voce:] Yeah.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Well, why don’t we talk a little bit more about what you’re doing these days. As you decided to be retired in the past four years, you’ve become… I don’t know, you always did lectures and things, but you obviously have more time to look over your material and make sense of it again. How would you like to reflect on a few years in the past, and how would like these next years to go? Obviously you’ve maybe retired from the actual making of photographs, but you certainly haven’t retired from the realm of photography at all.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, that’s the beauty of what’s happened. I retired in December… Not retired, I closed my corporation–had three people working with me–December ’86. This is now three years and a month or so. And almost about the time when this happened, MOCA, through Elizabeth Smith, called upon me, and they said they’re going to structure the case study house program, Arts and Architecture. So Elizabeth and I met several times. We went through my old files and began to bring out from the files–after all, we photographed fifteen of the houses–scores and scores of photographs, and made selections for promotion for the gallery exhibit and for whatever purposes they need photographs. And that kept me busy a tremendously long period of time. But then coincidental with that period, when material was getting out and magazines from all over the world–from Nuremburg, Germany, from Cologne, from, Domus from Italy, d’aujourd’hui, in Paris, a publication in Geneva, South American publications–we began to get requests from all over the world, let alone all over this country, from magazines wanting to do stories about the case study house. They, too, were latching on to the historical value of these houses.

Now, together with that, we were receiving the usual requests for reprints from other institutions, other publications. Fortunately, I had a good laboratory that picked up and delivered pictures, so I didn’t even have to leave my place. So all I had to do was write up the order, pull the negatives out of the files… Just like today, we had the experience… Now here Ira Yellin, who acquired the Bradbury Building, he’s the one that also acquired the Grand Central Market, and he’s restoring that.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Grand Central Market, my mother-in-law, my mother way back in the twenties, used to go there to do shopping, on Third and Hill Street? Where is it? Yeah. Next to the Metropolitan, next to the Million Dollar Theater, that area. Now, here’s Ira Yellin, great guy who’s involved in restoring and preserving architecture, and he said today, when he called while we were having lunch, he said, “I want to bring it back up to snuff. I want to restore it to it’s original slickness and beauty and integrity.” And he will, he will. Now the thing is now, in the process of this, I have in my files pictures that we took with Esther McCoy in the 1950s when she literally single-handedly rediscovered that building. And from then on, it became architectural history. So we have, in essence, again, another resurgence of interest in pictures that we’ve done from way back, thirty, forty years ago. And I have requests for material from publications which now have learned more and more universally… Like this man in Paris who’s doing a monograph on the work of Soriano. He did something on the Soriano Adolph Building out in Burbank.

So these things keep compounding themselves and this is what’s taking my time. Not only because it takes a lot of time to research my files–I have everything listed in card file and by number so I can pick out any picture in a matter of seconds, anything I’ve ever done in my life–but also, on top of that, we’re going back into history, like I mentioned. I showed you that Film Institute magazine [________–Ed.] where they wanted the picture of the San Fernando Valley. And here, in a matter of seconds, a man comes up here, and I pull out of a file a picture taken in 1933 before I became a photographer. I even found a picture of a track meet I took in 1927, when I was a high school student, and that is coming out in the Angeles Magazine in the March issue. So there’s no end, what’s happening to me now.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Is the track meet photo the earliest work of yours to be published?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, yes, because I was not a photographer. I was taking a course in high school, Roosevelt High School, in the eleventh grade, and we had a choice of either an art appreciation course or a semester of photography. And Roosevelt had one of the first high school classes in photography in the whole country at that time. And the assignment was to take a picture of a track meet. And I had the family Brownie Box Camera with me that day, and I took a picture and processed it that week at school. We were learning how to make prints and enlargements, develop a roll of film, negatives. And the picture turned out well. I came across the negative last year, and I made an eight-by-ten glossy print of it, and here it’s coming out in the March issue of the Angeles Magazine, 1990, a picture taken in 1927.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I was seventeen years old at the time. I was just beginning. I didn’t do it with photography though. However, I took that one semester, half a year, learned a little bit about photography. Then the next pictures I took were 1933, ’32, when I had this Vest Pocket Kodak which somebody gave me for a present and I started taking snapshots. So, you see, my life span of photography is infinite in the sense that, like when I went to Berkeley for a couple years in ’34 and ’35 period, I had this Vest Pocket camera with me, and I started taking pictures of the buildings around the campus. I didn’t know anything about architecture or structure, but I took pictures which… I have the original negatives here on file, and they’re beautiful pictures of some of the early buildings on the UCLA, University of California campus. And I used to sell the pictures and paid my twenty-five-dollar a month rent out of the money I made on the prints.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: [chuckles] That’s great.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I converted the kitchen into a darkroom and I’d have to… My friend and I were living up there together and he was busy with his classwork, and I was bumming around playing basketball, swimming in the gym, and taking snapshots and attending a few courses, and it didn’t cost much to live on. So, we had our lambchops and rutabagas which me mixed. We liked rutabagas and cheese and breads and good [Komasbrot], dark German bread. We used to eat well, and then I’d make my enlargements at night in the kitchen and make prints, and then mount them the next day and frame then, and sell them to the bookstores around the campus.


JULIUS SHULMAN: So I was doing photography before I became a photographer.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And it’s fascinating to me, when I think back of how it all began, by such sheer chance and what an accident. Because if I hadn’t met Neutra–or met the draftsman through my sister, who worked at Neutra’s–and if Mrs. Neutra didn’t know my sister who had a pharmacy down there a block away from the Neutra office on Silverlake and Glendale Boulevard, if she hadn’t asked my sister, “Do you have a room that somebody can rent?” And my sister said, “Yes,” and then I met this boy through my sister, and I met Neutra through this young man, and here I am a photographer.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s _____ _____.

JULIUS SHULMAN: What would have happened to me if I hadn’t…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: How would the story…

JULIUS SHULMAN: Because I had no intention of… There wasn’t, [there was, I had] no interest in photography. Except I took snapshots.

Some of my early Death Valley pictures are going to be published in this new California Highway magazine, which has just come out. They’re doing a story of Frank Lloyd Wright too, by the way. And the Antique and Fine Arts magazine is coming out next month also, published in San Jose. They’re doing a story on the Freeman House, and the California Highway magazine, which is a new publication, is doing a thing on the Ennis House. So the mileage, the circulation that we’re getting over and over again, from magazines. Time magazine called the other day out of the clear blue, and they said, “Mr. Shulman, we’re doing something on MOCA’s exhibit, the Case Study House Program [of Arts and Architecture magazine–Ed.]. I think it’s supposed to come out this week. I don’t know. I don’t see Time magazine. But anyhow, what did I send them? The girl wasn’t born when I took pictures in 1952 for Time magazine.


JULIUS SHULMAN: When I told her this she almost split, flipped–and split too. [commenting on his slip of the tongue–Trans.] She said, “Well, I wasn’t born when you took that picture. What was it?” I said, “Well, Time magazine had asked me in New York to photograph the Eames House, and I got a picture of Charles and Ray Eames sitting in their little chairs in their living room. A picture of Charles Eames in his little studio playhouse there. And I sent those original eight by ten Kodachrome transparencies to New York.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And I haven’t heard from them since, but I imagine… House and Garden, by the way, is coming out, too, with a story. These things keep moving. And what I’m so proud about is the fact that fortunately in those years I took pictures… Eastman made the Kodachrome film, which lasted as I call _____ permanent shelf life. They don’t fade away like the Ektachromes do. Ektachromes taken during the fifties are all bleached and magenta, fade out in color. The Ansco Color Company made four-by-five transparencies and eight-by-ten, and Eastman made the Kodachromes, same filler used for our slides, and they’ll last forever. I’ve got 1949 and 1950 pictures of the Taliesin West where I met Frank Lloyd Wright for the first time, and those slides are as good as new–as well as the black and whites.

So this goes on and on. Fortunately, I started a good file system from day one that I can send pictures out overnight to someone half way around the world by just referring… Like I did just now, pulling out the early 1967 pictures of the, the Bradbury Building, in 1967. And the pictures of Esther McCoy, working with her. That would have been 1952 or thereabouts for Arts and Architecture. I can put my hands on those pictures, which makes my life easier and I don’t get gray hair, and don’t get old and all that because I don’t have any problems.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And I preach this to students and photographers and architects, “Keep a record of everything you’ve done.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: Don’t throw anything away.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, that’s important. Well, let’s talk a little bit more about particular photographs. I don’t know how to limit this. Can you tell me which were your favorite photographs of your own?

JULIUS SHULMAN: Well, it turns out, strangely enough, that as history–my own history–develops, I can move from picture to picture. And I must say that–like these two photographs lying here on my table–I can’t express any favoritism, because most of my pictures are good, and I say this unequivocally.


JULIUS SHULMAN: They are good pictures. The composition is thoughtful. The photographic technique is perfect. There’s nothing to change in terms of printing. When I send my negatives now to a lab… I sent negatives… Albert C. Martin, Jr., is going to be given an AIA award, the Architectural Guild for twenty-five year practice in April, I think, at USC. And they’ve selected one of my pictures I took of the [Orrin, Ora] [Parr] building, which is Albert’s favorite building. I’m glad of that because it’s good. And it may receive a twenty-five year award; it’s up for nomination on that, too, for the building. But Albert Martin, Jr., is going to be given the recognition by the guild. But anyhow, I sent that negative, a very difficult twilight picture of the unusual composition of the [Orrin, Ora] [Parr] building, which Albert likes. It’s his favorite picture. But it’s a difficult one to print. And I ordered fifteen prints from my lab, and they delivered them just the other day, Friday, and they are beautiful prints. So I have a great lab that does my work for me.


JULIUS SHULMAN: And they pick up the negatives, and two days later they deliver the prints. All I’ve got to do is stamp my name on the back, and write the code number of the picture.


JULIUS SHULMAN: So that is also one of my favorite pictures. So I can’t answer. [I have, Like] this picture of Richard Neutra.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Yeah, that’s got to be…

JULIUS SHULMAN: The Kaufman House is a classic now.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s got to be one of the great favorite…

JULIUS SHULMAN: The picture of Pierre Koenig’s House is now a classic. And suddenly Pierre Koenig becomes a hero, based on one picture.


JULIUS SHULMAN: “Oh, you’re the guy who did that building.” And I remember when UCLA had an exhibit in the Wight Gallery of Richard Neutra’s work in the 1950s or sixties. What was the fellow’s name… Jack Nelson designed it? At that exhibit, when it opened, great excitement. Even like when the Museum of Modern Art exhibit was shown at UCLA a couple, few years ago, people would come up to Neutra and to me and would say, “Oh Mr. Neutra these are beautiful photographs.” And poor Neutra would wince.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I remember vividly, at the White Gallery exhibit–that’s years before–great, beautifully mounted exhibit. Jack Nelson’s a great designer. I think he’s still with UCLA in some capacity. Brilliant. Anyhow, a girl comes running up to us and say, “Oh, Mr. Neutra”–I was there talking; we were standing in front of the Kaufman House picture I think, a big blowup–“Oh Mr. Neutra, what beautiful photography.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: And I could see his expression. As if to say, “My, God!” No word about his architecture.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Same thing happened at the Museum of Modern Art exhibit. I was in New York for the opening.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s _____. Oh, that’s wonderful.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And I was getting all the accolades.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: What a wonderful story.

JULIUS SHULMAN: And the kudos. God, people were saying, “Julius”–or Shulman–“my God, you did it again.”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Oh, that’s great.

JULIUS SHULMAN: I said, “I know.” [laughter] That was fascinat… So I don’t have any favorites. People ask me, “Do you have a favorite architect?” “No. Of course not. I don’t like architects.”


JULIUS SHULMAN: Very few architects I ever became friends with. I didn’t befriend… I can count on my hands.


JULIUS SHULMAN: People used to say to me, “You must have a lot of friends among the architects.” I said, “No. I don’t. Because I have found,” and I have said this many times, “most architects are good designers, but there are not many who are great human beings.” They’re too busy making money or too busy getting involved in the complication, and it’s a tough business.


JULIUS SHULMAN: I don’t blame them. It’s a tough business. It’s hard to be an easygoing… Like in the early days when Gregory Ain was moving that pencil line with George Agron on that drafting board.


JULIUS SHULMAN: He could do it because he only had one house a year, if he was lucky. And usually that house would cost around ten or twelve thousand dollars, for which he’d receive a ten percent fee. It’d be a thousand dollars for a year’s work, which is about what architects made in those days. And then he was lucky because, like with Soriano, they would feed them, buy them dinner and a meal, because these people never had any money left by the time they would get through their houses in those years. So the architectural profession has changed.

That’s how I became such good friends with Soriano. But he was a difficult man. He would drive away clients. If they dared ask him his opinion of something that they liked, he would rise up in anger and shout at them. He says, “You don’t need me. You called me to do your house. I’ll design your house. Don’t tell me how to design.” They didn’t ask him that. But he misinterpreted, because he was defensive. And architects in those days were very much like that. It was not anything for Neutra or Soriano or Gregory Ain to have a tile man or a brick mason tear down an entire wall because he didn’t do it right. This was a strange period of architecture. But that reflects also about the fact that the architects were right into their own work.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: They were just there, yeah.

JULIUS SHULMAN: They were there, and they inspected every inch. Soriano was here at our house. He was here every day with the contractor, which was very fortunate because this is an intricate steel-frame building to put together. You don’t realize until you see the cross-section of some of the plans. The details are very intricate in this kind of house. Like Soriano mitered the brick in the corner of the fireplace. No architect ever mitered brick, so they’d butt it together.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: That’s extraordinary.

JULIUS SHULMAN: No one’s ever done it before or since. Only Soriano. And the masons thought he was crazy. But afterwards they saw the finished wall and they said, “Gee, that is nice.”

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: What a beautiful detail, yeah.

JULIUS SHULMAN: They had to cut each brick at a forty-five degree angle. Boy, that’s…

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: Boy, go through lots of bricks that way.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Yeah, they did. They did. So, you see, in other words, I’m highly indebted, tremendously indebted to Soriano for this house.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: It’s been your whole life. It’s been where you work and where you live.

JULIUS SHULMAN: Over forty years now. Look what I have. Imagine after retirement…


JULIUS SHULMAN: …if I had to go to a place of work or an office somewheres to open the door every morning with a key, leave the house, leave this _____. This way I go twenty-four feet–sixteen and eight–twenty-four feet from the front door to this door. I come here about ten o’clock, have breakfast at nine in the house, come in here by ten and work until about three o’clock or so, and in between I go home for lunch. Walk up, cross the street. Have good music here _____ ten o’clock _____ _____. Have good music here, and it’s quiet. Phone doesn’t bother me too much. And it’s nice.

TAINA RIKALA DE NOREIGA: And it feels like being at work. It doesn’t feel like being at home, either. It’s a very well-balanced…

JULIUS SHULMAN: And I can do my bird-watching here.


JULIUS SHULMAN: The other day someone was up here and wants to do a calendar of my work. And all of a sudden I said, “Wait, there’s a herd of thrush out there in the bird bath.” I hadn’t seen them, just came for the winter. And this guy’s not into birds; he thought I was crazy.


JULIUS SHULMAN: Like we saw a wren out there before.


JULIUS SHULMAN: So I’m living in nature, and my environment, don’t forget, is based on the fact that I was raised on a farm in Connecticut, living on a farm that was surrounded by forest land. So all my life I was involved in nature, with and in nature.


This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Julius Shulman, 1990 Jan. 12-Feb. 3, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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