Mid-century memories: Taschen rediscovers hidden gems in the Julius Shulman vaults

Three-volume edition named Modernism Rediscovered, published by Taschen
The work of architectural photography forerunner and master of mid-century modernism Julius Shulman is celebrated in an extended, three-volume edition named Modernism Rediscovered, published by Taschen
(Image credit: press)

Publisher Benedikt Taschen has surveyed the 260,000-strong photo archive of Julius Shulman (1920 – 2009), in order to find the hidden gems and shining moments of the architectural photographer's illustrious career. Taschen, who enjoyed a close publishing relationship with Shulman since 1998, sensitively whittled the selection down to 1,008 pages, split into three insightful volumes entitled Modernism Rediscovered.

Volume to volume, the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Oscar Niemeyer feature amongst a catalogue of genre-defining talent; from Frank Gehry's swooping structures to the swathes of white walls that characterise Le Corbusier. It's all too easy to become immune to the power of these iconic images, having seen them stamped across magazines and in photobooks for two generations. But here, it's the mix of previously unseen, quiet portraits and intimate family shots that make us look again, and 'rediscover' modernism as the title asks of us. Shulman's unique access inside the homes, where he was welcomed as an esteemed guest time after time, reflects his close friendship with many of the master modernists, allowing him to deftly and respectfully capture their work as it was intended to be seen – as a place in which to live and exist.

Although most often remembered for his commitment to photographing Californian architecture, Modernism Rediscovered represents Shulman's work across the rest of the USA, and further afield in Hong Kong, Israel and Mexico, as Philip J. Ethington's biographical introduction explains. But it was Shulman's Californian childhood that primed him to have such a universal modernist's eye. 'Growing up in Southern California, at a time when Los Angeles was far closer to nature than it is today, gave Shulman the background to understand the near seamless compatibility of interior and exterior that is a hallmark of modernist design,' Ethington writes. 'In Shulman’s vision, the meticulous organisation of interior space, so reassuring in an often chaotic world, is balanced by the free form of an ad-hoc landscape.'

Shulman brought this 'Southern Californian lifestyle' to a world stage, and his stylised images are imprinted on the retina of the 20th century because of it. So impressive and overarching is his work that it's often difficult to picture the buildings he photographed without the epochal Shulman-hue over them. Organised as it is, in three detailed yet easy to manage sections interspersed with generous commentary, this beautifully presented collection is a fitting tribute to both mid-century architecture, and the man who dedicated his life to capturing it.

Frey Residence, by Albert Frey, Palm Springs, California, 1956


(Image credit: Julius Shulman)

Shulman, who passed away in 2009, brought Californian modernist architecture to a world stage, and was influential in the careers of many architects who were also his close friends. Pictured: Frey Residence, by Albert Frey, Palm Springs, California, 1956.  © J.Paul Getty Trust. Courtesy Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

Broader range of photographs taken throughout the USA, and further afield in Israel, Mexico and Hong Kong


(Image credit: press)

This three-part tome pays homage to not only his West Coast work, but also his broader range of photographs taken throughout the USA, and further afield in Israel, Mexico and Hong Kong

Modernism Rediscovered


(Image credit: press)

Publisher Benedikt Taschen is the man behind the selection. He took two years to carefully pick from around 260,000 images from Shulman's personal, yet impeccably organised archives

Julius Shulman: Architecture and Its Photography in 1998


(Image credit: press)

Taschen was the perfect man for the marathon job, having enjoyed a close collaboration with the photographer since first publishing Julius Shulman: Architecture and Its Photography in 1998

Roberts Residence and Mathias Goeritz at his home, which was co-designed with Ricardo Legorreta, Cuernavaca


(Image credit: Julius Shulman)

Pictured left: Roberts Residence, by Weston, Byles & Rudolph, Malibu, California, 1953. Right: Mathias Goeritz at his home, which was co-designed with Ricardo Legorreta, Cuernavaca, Mexico, 1973. © J.Paul Getty Trust. Courtesy Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

Greenberg Residence, by Buff & Hensman, Palos Verdes, California, 1966


(Image credit: Julius Shulman)

Accompanying text comes courtesy of a host of big-name practitioners and Shulman enthusiasts, including an introduction by photography critic Owen Edwards, and an extensive biography by University of Southern California historian Philip J. Ethington. Pictured: Greenberg Residence, by Buff & Hensman, Palos Verdes, California, 1966. © J.Paul Getty Trust. Courtesy Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

Cunningham Residence ('Stoneflower' House), by Herb Greene, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1964


(Image credit: Julius Shulman)

Shulman's iconic images have imprinted themselves into the retina of the 20th century, and this comprehensive, beautifully presented collection is a fitting tribute to both the architecture, and the man that had the foresight to capture it. Pictured: Cunningham Residence ('Stoneflower' House), by Herb Greene, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1964. © J.Paul Getty Trust. Courtesy Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

Spring Hotel, Bequia, by Crites & McConnell, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 1967.


(Image credit: Julius Shulman)

Spring Hotel, Bequia, by Crites & McConnell, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 1967. © J.Paul Getty Trust. Courtesy Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

INFORMATION

Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered, published by Taschen, $150. For more information, visit the Taschen website (opens in new tab)

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.