Today I got news that Julius Shulman passed away at 98. While I was saddend by the news, I also found myself smiling. Julius LIVED life. It was an honor to have the opportunity to make a portrait of him at his home in Los Angeles not long ago, one of the most memorable days of my photographic career.
I called Mr. Shulman about my Behind Photographs Project and he agreed to sit for me as long as I came to his home studio to make the portrait. Marshall Williams, Luis Garcia and I made the drive to LA that day with my 20x24 Wisner Camera. When we arrived, we found ourselves setting up a backdrop in his office/studio. He lived in a mid century home, that he had designed by architect Raphael Soriano in 1947, it was a wonderful home with lots of windows, beautiful light spilled into office.
As we began to set up, Mr. Shulman stopped me. "Don't make a production out of this, I don't have a lot of time," he said. I tried to explain the project to him over the phone, but I don't think he understood that I was bringing a 20x24 camera to his home. I quickly went to the car and told Luis that we needed to get the camera up. I knew that once he saw that camera, he would give us the time we needed to make the picture. When he first glanced at the camera, he said, "Look at that box, that is beautiful." So we finished lighting the set, found a print for him to hold (He wanted to hold a photo of a Chinese Junk he shot on vacation), sat Mr. Shulman in a chair and shot an exposure. We processed the image in my 20x24 Polaroid processor which we set up in his garage where we had built a small black tent to cover it. His garage also had a full wall of windows and we did our best to keep light from entering the film holder. When I pulled the Polaroid, there was a large blue light leak that crept into the top of the frame. I took the image back to Mr. Shulman in his office and he loved it. "It is perfect, I love the light leak, it's all about me 'letting in the light'."
So that was it and we began to pack the car. I asked Mr. Shulman to sign the bottom of the print and write about his image, Case Study Home #22. He told me that each time he made a picture, he only took one frame. He explained there was no reason to shoot more. You wait until the frame is perfect and then, and only then, do you make the picture. He wrote," My Portrait: a photographer's responsibility to capture "my essence"! A pleasing reward to respond to my personal procedure - I am called by my good friend, Benedikt Taschen: "One Shot Shulman." This "scene" was also a one shot endeavor!
Many people that live long lives do not always live full lives. Julius Shulman did both.