Yes, the buildings he photographed are stunningly beautiful, but try not to let that distract you from the real point: Architectural photographer Julius Shulman was above all a humanist, drawn to modern architecture for its ability to make life better for individuals and society. "Julius was a complete pragmatist," says Eric Bricker, director of Visual Acoustics, the film on Shulman that'll show at 14 Pews next week.
Bricker, who relocated to Austin several years ago after a long spell in Los Angeles, made the film to document the life and work of Shulman, who's world-famous for photographing many of the most important buildings of the 20th century, and who died in 2010 at age 98. The documentary, a film-festival favorite, is narrated by Dustin Hoffman.
Like the fabled Eameses before him, Shulman was a lover of lived-in modernism, somewhat contrary to the pristine environments conjured by some of his photos. "He definitely didn't live like a, quote, modernist," said Bricker. "His house was pretty darn cluttered. [Shulman's own architect, Raphael] Soriano, wouldn't even go into the house anymore, because he couldn't take it."
Though he's most famous for his iconic midcentury photos of California homes including Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House and John Lautner's Chemosphere, Shulmlan continued to work until very late in life, photographing LA landmarks like the Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall.
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And while Shulman's gorgeous body of work always bears revisiting, it's the story of the man himself that's this film's most important addition to the conversation on modernism. The director, who considered Shulman a mentor and a friend, is rapturous about his subject: "The film's a portrait of this nonagenarian who has lived his life to the fullest and continues to do so in each moment," says Bricker. "He was a master at living life. He found the ancient secret of the fountain of youth: living in a perpetual state of curiosity and creativity, and that kept him forever young."
See the next page for more photos.