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Julius Shulman: 98 And Still Photographing

Read Susan Stamberg's Story on Shulman, Photographer Captures L.A.'s Vintage Homes

In 1960, Julius Shulman took a photograph that to this day remains the paragon of architectural photography. Case Study House #22 (below) shows the dreamlike, cinematic Los Angeles that has been etched into our collective conscious. Even at the age of 98, Shulman continues to take photographs with the help of his working partner Juergen Nogai. The two met about 10 years ago, and Shulman came out of retirement to work with the like-minded Nogai.

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If you have an idea of what California looked like in the 1960s and '70s, Shulman is probably partially responsible for it. He has set the industry standard on many levels — for both architects and photographers alike.

Despite a lifetime behind the lens, however, Shulman and Nogai both eschew the term photo shoot. "Shoot?" says Shulman, laughing. "Look at me. Do I have a gun? I'm a photographer." Nogai explains: "People are not thinking anymore; they're just shooting." Some would agree that the digital age has enabled a decrease in deliberation. If you can fill up a memory card with 1,000 images until you get the perfect one, after all, why stop to carefully compose?

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But what most typifies a Shulman/Nogai photograph is meticulous composition that will guide your eye endlessly, if you allow it. These photographers are notorious for the amount of careful consideration that formulates each frame. They've spent up to nine hours on assignment to leave with a mere 11 frames. Eleven perfect frames, that is.

When describing their photographic process, Nogai explained his affinity for film, as well as his concerns about changes to the medium in general. "We're living in a world where everything is 'good enough.' It's not good anymore. And for me that means a reduction in quality." He has a digital Nikon D3x and rents digital backs for his film cameras. "I'm not saying digital photography is bad," he clarified, "but that it has a place."

There's a real concern among photographers who have long been in the industry — even among those who haven't — that their art is dying. They long to turn off their computer monitors and hold their prints in hand. Nogai's advice to aspiring photographers is to study, create a vision and tell a story. He and Shulman have been doing so for decades, and their photographs are a testament to that.