Julius Shulman’s 1947 photograph of the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, CA. Courtesy of Getty.
We’re always gushing about the work of architectural photographer Julius Shulman (1911–2009) so when we found a director who shares our passion enough to make a film about the man, we knew he was someone we wanted to meet.
Director Eric Bricker (left) with photography director Dante Spinotti filming Visual Acoustics at the Case Study House #22. Photo by Aiken Weiss.
I spoke with director Eric Bricker, whose film, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, appeared in theaters last year and was recently released in DVD. Like everyone who spent time with Julius, Bricker has wonderful stories to share. And rather than archiving them away, decided to bring them to the big screen for all to enjoy.
Julius Shulman’s 1960 photograph of Case Study House #22. Courtesy of Getty.
Gwendolyn Horton: Why did you make this film?
Eric Bricker: While working as an art consultant, I was looking for black and white photographs for a project, and I was introduced to Julius and we became friends. Up until then, I wasn’t familiar with his work, so you could say that I met Julius and his photographs at the same time. Getting back to your question, I made Visual Acoustics for two reasons: One, because I wanted Julius’ photographs to be seen on the big screen – to see them large – they’re worthy of that; and two, to allow more people the chance to meet Julius and get to know his work.
Julius Shulman’s photograph of the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Courtesy of Getty.
GH: Tell me more about what you call the “profound energy” in Julius’ photographs.
EB: To me, Julius’ photographs “sing” – I can feel him in these photographs. Julius always told his students to “infuse all that you see, hear and feel into one frame.” That’s what gives his photographs life and movement.
Julius Shulman’s photograph of Duffields Lincoln-Mercury Showroom. Courtesy of Getty.
GH: Do you think that Julius himself also possessed this profound energy?
GH: What surprised you about working with him?
EB: He helped me reframe the way I look at things. I have a greater appreciation for the built environment. However, what surprises me the most, is where I find Julius now – and it happens almost daily – is in the blue bonnets, the clouds, the blue sky. It’s through nature. It doesn’t happen so much through the built environment.
Enjoying nature with Julius Shulman. Courtesy of Arthouse Films.
GH: What would you change about Visual Acoustics?
EB: I’ve spoken with other filmmakers and they all tell me that there are things they’d change about their films – like a picture that’s crooked on the wall that they didn’t notice when they were filming – and they all say that you have to let that go, you can’t help having some inconsistencies. With VA, what I would change is that I’d like to slow down some of the images to allow the eye to linger longer.
Julius Shulman’s 1963 photograph of the Culver City Auditorium. Courtesy of Getty.
GH: What are you working on now?
EB: A hybrid documentary/narrative film called “What If: How Geeks and Gamers will Change the World.” It’s a project that explores my belief that through aligning and utilizing social media and social gaming with social causes, we can make powerful changes on a global scale.
GH: How so?
EB: Well, my goal is to inspire people through the film, and then give them an interactive game through social media, like Facebook, to use as a tool to go out and make a difference.
Julius Shulman’s 1958 photograph of Convair Astronautics. Courtesy of Getty.
GH: Why did you decide to make this film so different from Visual Acoustics?
EB: They’re actually similar, in that this new project is about looking at technology and how we can apply this system to better the lives of many people. Which is just like modernism or, as Charles Eames said, it is about making “the best for the most for the least.”
Design Notes readers are invited to learn more about Eric Bricker and his work by watching an interview he gave with Leo Marmol at the DWR Studio in Austin.
And if you haven’t seen Visual Acoustics
, I highly recommend that you do. Peppered with Shulman’s quips and anecdotes (and a bit of gossip) about some of architecture’s most iconic figures, the film is a marvelous refresher course on the subject of modernism. You’ll also pick up photography tips from the master himself, as Shulman discusses his use of one-point perspective and how to avoid distortion through a wide-angle lens. He jokes, he reminisces, he basks in well-deserved praise. A fun ride that’s touching, informative and stunning, I strongly recommend it.