Image courtesy of Julius Shulman, ‘Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House No. 22’, 1960.
Shulman was part of a postwar generation of architecture photographers who’s speciality was Modernist buildings. He worked largely for magazines and architectural publications, using mainly black and white film. He had an ability to make the “hard glass and steel surfaces” appear “comfortable and inviting.” Geometric essentials were of paramount importance at the time, but he was one of the first photographers to include inhabitants of the buildings.
Shulman’s mission was to capture the essence of architecture, but occasionally this needed some tweaking. In an interview, he recalls an assignment for Good Housekeeping magazine where landscaping improvisation was used. “I went to a nursery and rented some canned plants — five-gallon cans of roses and geraniums, whatever they had in bloom — and set them up in front of the house and framed the pictures with these plants. Then we broke off a branch from a walnut tree that was growing nearby and fastened it to a light stand so we could frame the picture with an arching branch, and in the finished picture the house is perfectly landscaped.”
Architectural and interior photography is therefore not just photographing a building or a room. It involves imagination, thought and constant evaluation of the surroundings. What a photographer includes or excludes from a frame can drastically alter the feeling of an architectural photograph.