Visual Acoustics

Visual Acoustics is an exceptional film about the architectural photographer Julius Schulman and California modernism. It is a reminder of the extent to which photography was important in spreading the idea of modernism, especially since many of the early modernist buildings in Los Angeles and Palm Springs were houses that were not accessible to most people. The film also shows the influence that Schulman’s photography had in portraying modernism not as an abstract ideal but as a backdrop for a certain kind of everyday life—simpler, uncluttered, closer to nature. An interesting comparison of Schulman’s work with that of the other great architectural photographer of the period, Ezra Stoller, demonstrates the extent to which Shulman draws the viewer into the frame making the work of architecture into a place rather than an object. During the film, designer Tom Ford also points out that in some cases the buildings that Schulman photographed are actually not as evocative as they appear in his photographs. Or maybe Schulman, who comes across as warm and genial, was just very good at teasing out whatever was best in his subjects.

Schulman photgraphing Case Study House No. 29, Los Angeles, 1960

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