JULIUS SHULMAN | THE DEFINING EYE OF ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

When people speak of architectural photography, these two images always come up as arguably the most iconic and moving of all. You may not know the photographer’s name, you may not know the architect– but if you’ve ever seen these images and appreciate both photography & architecture, they are most likely seared on your mind’s eye.

Julius Shulman was a photographer for 70+ yrs, capturing some of the world’s most amazing structures and spaces ever created by man. He set the standard that others now strive to reach, and when they can’t– they may simply stage or frame a shot using his famous works like a proven template as homage and acknowledgement that it just doesn’t get any better. Shulman brought Mid-Century Modern to the world as much as the legendary architects he worked with. Sought out not just for for his incredible eye– he had an innate ability to understand and interpret the architect’s intent, and tell that story strikingly with laser-like focus. Correction: Shulman didn’t set the standard– he is the standard.

Architect Richard Neutra’s “other” Kaufmann House built in Palm Springs, 1946– the first being Fallingwater, and yes– Frank Lloyd Wright’s feathers were indeed ruffled over this apparent snub when Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann selected another architect for this project. Published in the LIFE Magazine feature “Glamourized Houses” in 1949. –Image by © Julius Shulman / J.Paul Getty Trust / Julius Shulman photography archive. “No other architect Shulman worked with was as controlling as Neutra. He would look through the viewfinder and adjust the camera, only to have Shulman move it back when he turned his head. Theirs was a battle of egos, of who was in charge of what and whom. This was never more so than when Shulman photographed the Kaufmann House on a 1947 evening. He set up inside as the sun began to fall behind the mountains, but to capture the fleeting dusk he decided to move outdoors. Neutra wanted him to stay put. Shulman ignored him and placed the tripod on the lawn facing west. As the sky darkened, the house glowed. For the next 45 minutes Shulman ran in and out of the glass house, switching lamps on and off, opening and closing the shutter to burn in the light. At the end of the exposure he asked Mrs. Kaufmann to stretch out on the deck. Who wouldn’t want to imagine themselves there? The photograph, its lights and darks forming a thousand shades of gray, the geometric lines of the house set against the jagged range, would become one of Shulman’s two most reproduced works.” –Mary Melton

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TEXAS’ OWN “GONE WITH THE WIND” | GEORGE STEVENS’ 1956 EPIC– “GIANT”

Icons James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson sharing the silver screen– ‘nuff said? Not quite. While I love the glamour, legend, and lore behind the making of “Giant” (and trust me, we’ll get to that), it rings the social bell– truly ahead of its time, during the largely superficial values of the 1950s.

George Stevens’ 1956 masterpiece “Giant” has been described as– Texas’ own “Gone with the Wind.” Star-studded, sweeping and epic– that bravely chronicles the evolution of the Mexican people from a subservient status to a people worthy of equal rights, respect and dignity through their hard-fought, slow-earned absorption and acceptance in America.  It’s a story about social change and ethnic growing pains that was told on the big screen– before the issue was thrust front-and-center in American living rooms during the civil rights movement.

America has a history of making the path to assimilation and acceptance (in this fine country of ours that I love) a downright bloody one.  Hatred comes from fear–and fear is born of ignorance.  I’ve been down that road myself– most of us have at some point.  Like it or not.  Maybe the melting pot analogy is fitting here– throw it all in, boil out the bones, cook under high heat until palatable, and serve up warm.

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“In the beginning of “Giant,” the rancher Bick Benedict is always correcting his Eastern-bred wife for treatingthe Mexican servants as deserving of respect. By the film’s end, however, Benedict, played by a young Rock Hudson, comes to blows with a cafe owner attempting to remove a Spanish-speaking patron from his restaurant. Above all its themes, “Giant” is about social change. Hollywood for the first time addressed anti-Hispanic racism.‘Giant’ broke ground in the way it celebrated the fusion of Anglo and Hispanic culture in Texas– and anticipated the social gains that Mexican-Americans would make over the next generation. The movie is as much about race as it is about Texas.”

Benjamin Johnson (Author and Historian)

The Reata Ranch House (seen above in the background) in “Giant” is based on a actual Texas mansion– the Victorian era “Waggoner Mansion” that still stands today in Decatur, northwest of Fort Worth, Texas. George Stevens rejected the hacienda architecture of the traditional Texas ranch house (which is how the Benedict place is described in the Ferber novel). Stevens worried that a Spanish-looking house would be alien to non-Texan viewers. via The huge façade (of the Reata Ranch house) was built in Hollywood and shipped to Marfa on flatcars. It was erected in a corner of the Worth Evans ranch, one of the more imposing holdings of the region. And it was a strange sight, its towers visible for many miles, in the middle of the plains. As it was about a half enclosure rather well constructed, Stevens left it to serve the hospitable Mr. Evans as a hay barn. via

1955– Elizabeth Taylor & James Dean in George Stevens’ “Giant.” –Image © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

“We were working on’Giant’, and we’re out in the middle of Texas. It was a scene that takes place just before Dean discovers oil on his land, where Elizabeth Taylor comes by and he makes tea for her. It’s the first time Dean has ever acted with her. But even though we’re out in the desert in Marfa, there are a thousand people watching us film behind a rope. It’s a scene where Dean has a rifle on his back. He brings her in and makes her tea, and then, suddenly, he stops. And he walks a couple hundred feet away to where these people are watching us, and in front of all of them, he pisses– facing them, with his back to the set. Then he comes back in and does the scene. So, later, we’re driving back to Marfa, and I said, ‘Jimmy, I’ve seen you do a lot of strange things, man, but you really did it today. What was that all about?’ He said, ‘It was Elizabeth Taylor. I can’t get over my farm-boy upbringing. I was so nervous that I couldn’t speak. I had to pee, and I was trying to use that, but it wasn’t working. So I thought that if I could go pee in front of all those people, I would be able to work with her.'”  –costar Dennis Hopper via

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DIRTY, DANGEROUS & DESTITUTE | NEW YORK IN THE 70s – ALLAN TANNENBAUM

More than a few years back, I was walking up 40th past Bryant Park with my boss at the time, Jay, and he said– “You wouldn’t even recognize this place back in the 70s… you’d have been tripping over hypodermic needles, and fighting off the hookers back then.  It was nasty, man.” A chort was about all I could muster-up as a response. Maybe he was over-stating it a bit, or maybe I just couldn’t fathom– I’ve never felt unsafe in the city.  I just couldn’t get my arms around what he was talking about– it felt so far-removed and long ago. But man, these pics and words by Allan Tannenbaum make it vividly clear what NYC was truly like back then– probably just what Jaybird was talking about. It’s hard to imagine… Oh, and there was also some hellacious parties happening as well– and the music scene was incredible.

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Long-abandoned Pier 48 being used by gay men as a rendezvous for casual sex. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum

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New York in the 70s: A Remembrance

February 2004

by Allan Tannenbaum

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Dirty, dangerous, and destitute. This was New York City in the 1970s. The 1960s were not yet over, and war still raged in Viet Nam, fueling resentment against the government. Nixon and the Watergate scandal created even more resentment, cynicism, and skepticism. Economically, stagnation coupled with inflation created a sense of malaise. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 delivered another blow to the U.S. economy, and brought the misery of long lines to buy gasoline. Conditions in Harlem and Bed-Stuy were horrendous, with abandoned buildings and widespread poverty. The subways were covered everywhere with ugly graffiti and they were unreliable. It seemed as if the entire infrastructure was in decay. Political corruption, sloppy accounting, and the cost of the war were killing the city. Times Square, the crossroads of the world, was seedy and sleazy. Pimps, hookers, and drug dealers owned the night there. Crime was rampant, and the police were powerless to stop it. Random killings by the “Son of Sam” made New Yorkers even more fearful. The parks were in decay, with litter and bare lawns, and it was home to muggers and rapists. When the proud City of New York had to beg the Federal Government for a financial bail-out, the President said no. The Daily News headline said it all: “Ford to City – Drop Dead.”

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Transit Authority K-9 Police use German Shepherds on the subway to deter crime. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum

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GREAT AMERICAN HOME IMPROVEMENT THE OLD SCHOOL BASEMENT BAR

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

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Our Grandparent’s generation got it right, man– the fully loaded, properly-appointed basement bar. via here

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Like a lot of us affected by the ongoing economic instability, I’ve had to tighten the purse strings a bit lately.  Simply put– I’m spending more time at home, and less dough on going out.  That said, my penchant for enjoying a stiff drink with friends has inspired me to bring back something my Grandparent’s generation held sacred and all had– the basement bar.  Let us be clear before anyone reads on– this is not about having an additional fridge stocked with Corona you bought from Costco, a jumbo bag of chips, and a few crappy bean bags that reek of stale beer from your frat house days.  That’s the JV approach, and not an atmosphere where anyone serious about drinking and socializing wants to hang. In short– it is not a bar.

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Can I pour you a tall, stiff one?  Does anyone wear a tie at home anymore, let alone in their basement? Circa 1965– via here

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The home bar craze started post WWII, as more Americans realized the dream of home ownership (late 1940’s to early 1970’s being my unofficial Golden Years).  As families migrated more and more to the suburbs, they found themselves enjoying entertaining at home.  Probably because as first-time home owners, they truly busted their asses to get into a house– saving every nickel (they’d never even consider defaulting on a mortgage), and when they finally settled on their dream house, they were truly proud of it, and wanted to show it off to friends and family alike.  Also restaurants and bars were still largely urban back then.  It would be many years before the suburbs were teaming with every silly “TGI– what is that ridiculous friggin’ costume” restaurant/bar franchise.  The other great thing back then– the “politically correct” culture of today was not around to stop grownups from socializing– sans kids. Back in the day, entertaining the children  was what the TV upstairs was made for.  With the kiddies safely locked away watching Rawhide, the adults were free to to enjoy top-shelf spirits, Chesterfield smoky treats, and boozy, adult conversation in the privacy of their own homes– truly paradise on earth.

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Circa 1949– Glamour gal, Eileen Howe, having a drink on New Year’s Eve in Samuel Spiegel’s home bar.  Photo by Peter Stackpole for LIFE magazine.

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FUTURISTIC MODERN DESIGN | STANDING THE TEST OF TIME

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Modern Design

Luxurious bath, "Palais Bulles" in Theoule-sur-Mer, France -- Designed by fashion designer Pierre Cardin and architect Antti Lovag, ca. 1970s.

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“Palais Bulles” was an inspired collaboration between fashion designer Pierre Cardin (it was to be his home) and the Finnish architect Antti Lovag.  Nestled in the stunning red rock face, this masterpiece of modern design was built utilizing entirely curved surfaces. The network of anti-seismic, self-sustaining bubbles extend over almost 5,000 square feet, and are dramatically perched 2,000 feet above the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea.  The views, they say, are absolutely unbelievable.

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“Palais Bulles”, or The Bubble Palace, sits atop a hillside in Theoule-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The futuristic mansion, comprised of rounded rooms with rotating floors, was designed by Pierre Cardin and architect Antti Lovag in 1968.

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ITALY TOUR DE FORCE DONE | FABULOUS AND FINITO

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Piroscafo "Concordia" ex "28 Ottobre"

Piroscafo "Concordia" ex "28 Ottobre"

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It was a mighty fine trip, that’s about as plain and simple as I can put it.  Venice– a beautiful place, but they sure gouge you every chance they get, which gets old quick.  What can you say, it’s a tourist trap. Then a wonderful visit to the Monti mill, dinner with Bruno and his fine, gracious people.  Scouring the shops and alleyways for more Italian influence.  Later– Milano Unica.  Great fabric and fashion inspiration, running into a couple familiar faces, making many new & fruitful connections.

Most of all, it’s nice to be home.  Home with the family I haven’t seen enough of this summer.  It makes you appreciate those you love, and want to treat them extra well.

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Lake Como, from the "water bus"

Lake Como, from the "water bus"

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Back from an Amazing Week in Portugal…

 

 

View from the hotel in Vila do Conde

View from the hilltop our hotel graced in Vila do Conde

 

Had a great week in Portugal visiting factories and making new friends.  The people there are incredibly friendly and gracious.  Enjoyed a crazy Wednesday night in Porto hitting the locals on the head with hammers (all in good fun), music and fireworks over the river.  After a couple days we finally stopped saying “gracias” (dumb gringos that we are…) and thanked them properly.  Obrigado!

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Artists Francois-Xavier & Claude Lalanne | Abstract Animal Instincts

 

I find this kind of artistic creation so inspiring and attractive; for it’s a true reflection of all the art, design and genius in nature that surrounds us daily– with an amazing abstract twist.  

 

“The supreme art is the art of living.”  –Francois-Xavier Lalanne


Husband and wife Francois-Xavier (F.X.) & Claude Lalanne at work in their Ury, France studio.

Husband and wife Francois-Xavier (F.X.) & Claude Lalanne at work in their Ury, France studio --1967.

 

For more than four decades, the French husband-and-wife artists François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne have charmed the art and style glitterati with their whimsical, sensual sculptures. François-Xavier’s famous bronze-and-wool sheep and donkey or rhinoceros desks, and Claude’s botanical-inspired furniture and flatware, are elegantly oblivious of the boundaries between fine and decorative art.

Now, in their later years, the Lalannes are hotter than ever. Their work is bringing big bucks at auction: Reed Krakoff, Coach’s creative director, paid a record $380,000-plus for a 1968 set of sheep by Francois-Xavier; and four bronze garden armchairs by Claude.  Krakoff, who owns several Lalanne pieces in addition to the sheep, produced the first English-language book on their work, Claude & Francois-Xavier Lalanne.

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BACK TO THE FUTURE | A RETRO HI FI IN A DARK & COZY MAN CAVE

Listening to music properly has a lot to do with having the right environment. A place that’s all your own. I like the warm glow from the perfect level of indirect, low lighting. I want to be surrounded by my favorite things to look at. And I long for seating that you just melt into and disappear in. And another thing– I love my iPod as much as the next guy– but sometimes there are those moments when you need to break out the turntable and throw on some old records. The warm hiss and crackle of needle on vinyl is like hearing your mother’s voice in the womb. Which is what a man cave really is– a dark, personal, intimate womb.

When we first moved to New Jersey, we bought a great old Dutch Colonial home previously owned by an Italian family– the guy’s name was Nick. The basement he built-out was the clincher. It was like a retro 60s gentleman’s club– red and black lacquer paneled walls, mirrors, a full bar with turntable, and even a pool table which they were good enough to leave behind. I’ll never forget the two framed portraits hanging side by side behind the bar– The Pope & Frank Sinatra. Welcome to Jersey– I loved it. I spent many an evening down there with lights down low, the sound of billiard balls slamming hard into a corner pocket, always perfect tunes in the background, and a cold one. Now I’m in a house with no man cave and going insane…

Playboy retro Hi Fi stereo equipment

Retro 1960s Hi Fi stereo equipment and mid century modern furniture– great old Tulip table.

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Eames chair man cave

Cozy retro man cave w/ Eames chair, animal hide rug, art, books & hi fi– Done.

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