My date with Julius Shulman 6

Architecture & Design · Visual arts
with julius shulman

The morning of the opening reception of her superb textile design exhibit at Design Within Reach, my ModCom friend Alexandra Becket called with a problem.

No one was available to pick up architectural photographer Julius Shulman, she said. Julius, of course had famously photographed her grandfather Welton Becket‘s architecture. He dearly wanted to attend the party.

I’d met Julius over the years, and had recently attended the Palm Springs Art Museum’s retrospective of his “desert modernism” photography.

Aware that he would soon turn 98 years old, I was happy to oblige and spend some quality time with Julius if only while sitting in Los Angeles traffic. Alexandra later reported that when she told the ever-feisty Julius who would be fetching him (that would be me), he barked, “A car’s a car.”  On that tender note, the arrangement was made.

Everyone in design/architectural circles knows that Julius is a real ladies man. His previous flirty behavior with me at a ModCom meeting held at his cool hilltop modern home (designed by Rafael Soriano) gave me pause to consider what life might be like caring for a (then) 90-year-old alterkocker who is also a brilliant artist.

alexandra & julius, photo by debra levine

Years later, Julius is (merely) a frailer version of his engaging self. Here he poses with Alexandra at her art show; she at 31, he at 97.

Wending our way up Laurel Canyon after the party, we chatted about life, love, art, and how he hates cropped photos (“Leave the environment in,” he growled, as though his perfectly framed works were by accident). He was fatigued and feeling the effect of two vodkas. He couldn’t have been sweeter though. Buoyed by all the attention he got at the party, he told me repeatedly that the room had been “vibrating.” When I walked him to his door, he kissed me lightly on the cheek, adding, “Call me up so we can finish our conversation.”

Dance critic Debra Levine is founder/editor/publisher of arts●meme.

6 thoughts on “My date with Julius Shulman

  1. Jane Brown Nov 12,2014 1:59 pm

    Do you know who took this Capitol Records photograph? I’ve been researching the image and it’s not Shulman.

    Thanks. Jane

  2. Flo Selfman Jul 30,2009 1:05 am

    I met Julius Shulman several years ago. I asked cable TV host Joan Quinn (“The Joan Quinn Profiles”) who else was going to be on her show the next day, as I was coming to the studio with a restaurateur client. “Gil Garcetti and Julius Shulman,” she said.
    I ran out to Borders and looked through all the architecture books for one that had the most Shulman photos and purchased it. At the studio, I presented the book, opened to a page with one of his photographs, to Shulman and asked if he would sign my book. He did, not knowing, of course, that I had only bought it the night before.
    I wanted to take his photo. He happened to be standing in front of the restroom door. I indicated the sign and suggested he move, but, no, he wanted me to take the picture right there — and the photo I took shows him pointing to the restroom sign, with that lovely, impish smile on his face!

  3. Sue Slutzky Jan 17,2009 4:58 pm

    I was also privileged to spend a little time with Mr. Shulman. About 18 years ago (and between jobs) I contacted him to discuss working with him as sort of a non-paid assistant. In exchange, he would share his photographic wisdom with me, as I also enjoy architectural photography. He invited me to his house and I brought some of my own photos, to get his opinion, and to talk about the possible work situation. Sadly, it was determined he didn’t need any more help (he already had an assistant). But he did give me some positive feedback on my photos. I’ll never forget the encounter, brief as it was.

  4. Keith Aug 24,2008 4:35 pm

    Glad to read of your recent exploits. Let us know how your next tete-a-tete goes with The Man.

  5. Jennifer Aug 23,2008 9:44 am

    Sweet story. Is he 97? wow! I feel like I’ve been remiss on my Modcom event attendance and am missing everyone, hope all is well with you 🙂


  6. Alexandra Becket Aug 22,2008 5:57 pm

    Julius told me he had a wonderful time with you, Deb — he had such fun! Love the description of your date! It was a special night! Alexandra

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