Mobil Gas Station, Anaheim, CA (c)1956, Julius Schulman
The word "master" gets tossed around so easily and so often these days that it can be hard to know and recognize a true master's work when you see it. That's not the case with Julius Schulman. Aside from masterful, the one word most often used to describe his photos of 1960s Southern California architecture is "iconic."
His photographs are particularly resonant for me because I grew up in Los Angeles during the time Schulman was most active. I remember seeing many of the buildings and locations he photographed. Some still exist, some are long gone, but every one he photographed has gained a certain immortality by virtue of the way he did it.
This gas station photo is just one example, but you'll find the same qualities in every one of his images: The perfect composition, the elegant lighting, the amazing attention to detail. These aren't the sort of photographs you look at for just a few seconds and move on. They're the sort that invite you to linger and that seem to reveal more with every viewing. They're the sort that remind us all that there's no substitute for seeing not just what's in front of you but what could be.
In case you're wondering what brought on this sudden tribute, it was sparked by my listening to a mention of Schulman on National Public Radio while I was driving. The announcer stated that listeners could find more information on The Picture Show, NPR's daily news photo blog. I strongly encourage you to click the link and check out the March 25 posting. Only slightly more amazing than his photographs is the fact that Shulman is 98 years-old and still taking pictures. And yes, nowadays he even shoots digital.