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Julius Shulman Still Photographing Los Angeles at 97


Julius Shulman is one of the world's leading architectural photographers, and today at 97, he is still taking pictures of his long-time home, Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports, Shulman's famous images of homes and other buildings show the city's transformation over seven decades.

As he looks through a display of his photographs at the Los Angeles central library, Julius Shulman pauses at one of the most famous pictures ever taken in the city. It shows an ultra-modern house atop the hills. Designed by architect Pierre Koenig, it is made of steel and glass and seems transparent. Two women inside are engaged in conversation against the backdrop of Los Angeles at night.

The picture was part of a series known as the Case Study House Program that illustrated modern home design. Shulman took the photograph in 1960, and he marvels at how many people have seen it since then.

"That picture has been published more than any known photograph ever in the history of architectural photography," said Julius Shulman. "All over the world, it continues to be published in magazines and books and calendars and everything. So the point is, it shows Los Angeles."

One hundred fifty of Shulman's photographs from the collection of the Getty Research Institute are display at the Los Angeles main library. They also show the city's distinctive and sometimes whimsical architecture - the recreated Roman Villa built by oilman J. Paul Getty, which is part of the Getty Museum, and the Hollywood Bowl, the famous Los Angeles amphitheater.

Shulman's photographs also celebrate the work of some of the city's noted architects, from Pierre Koenig to Frank Gehry.

Shulman lifts his cane to point out the landmarks in one of his pictures.

"The city hall on the right, the San Gabriel Mountains, the snow on the mountains," he said.

The seaport, the airport, and the tourist sites of Hollywood Boulevard - Shulman has photographed them all many times.

Getty associate curator Christopher Alexander says Shulman made his name here, as he introduced the architecture of Los Angeles to a worldwide audience. The curator says the exhibit shows the photographer's many sides.

"Shulman the businessman and the promoter and marketer, was marketing his hometown to the rest of the world, not only through the case study residential architecture but through the civic, commercial, and cultural architecture of this city," said Christopher Alexander. "And so that is what this exhibition really reveals."

Getty curator Wim De Wit says Shulman is still documenting the city he loves. The photographer plans to take a group of photography students on a bus tour. They will first stop at the central library to see images of Los Angeles in days past.

"We are going to take these students to the exhibition, and then drive around with them," said Wim De Wit. "And Julius will then work with them on taking photos of what the downtown looks like right now. So above anything else, Julius is an educator."

Shulman looks forward to the tour, which he says will reveal the city's impressive modern skyline.

"We are going to come back with a set of photographs which is going to be another eye opener," said Shulman. "Hey, wow. A 73-story building. It challenges New York, challenges Chicago. And it challenges China."

Some residents lament the changes in Los Angeles, which gets more people, cars and buildings every year. Julius Shulman says the city is just evolving, and he plans to keep photographing the process.