This afternoon, word was out that Julius Shulman, among the greatest lensmen and the one most responsible for giving a visual poetry to a modern city and some of its best architecture, died last night at his home. He was 98.
Like many familiar with Mr. Shulman's work, my image of Los Angeles was forever informed by his work. In my case, however, I grew up in L.A., and knew intimately the reality in those photographs didn't exactly match up. But the promise was there. And like no other city, Los Angeles holds great promise. The hopefuls who come here to make it in entertainment and technology know this. The golden boys and girls who grow up here since birth believing anything is possible know this. And the Brooklyn-born kid who moved to Boyle Heights and started snapping pictures with a pocket-sized Kodak knew it too.
Andy and I met Mr. Shulman in 2005. We were running late for a talk I was scheduled to give at his home, so we headed straight there from our long trip up from Baja. He was as engaging and beautiful as his photographs. He had that uncanny way of making you feel you had known him always, offering his warm attentiveness as if you were the only ones there. For Andy and I, it had long ago been love at first sight for his work. That afternoon, it was love at first sight for the man.
Ten months ago we lost our beloved Bill Claxton, another legend whose singular style eloquently and elegantly defined the look of two scenes, West Coast jazz and, on a more avant-garde level, fashion. If there's life after Planet Earth, then let's imagine these two are in a dark room somewhere visually articulating The Look of our next life. It's gives us hope.
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