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Many architects have made their mark on a place, planting seeds of creation that go on to define a street or neighbourhood. A select few become synonymous with a certain style, or even an entire city. But not many shape the way people think about an entire state; Julius Shulman achieved just that without designing a single building.
The final season of Mad Men touched on the shifting perceptions of California in the 1950s and 60s. Back then, if you wanted to get ahead in the world, you lived in New York City or Chicago. California was for retirees, weekend golfers, film studio execs and organised criminals – or so people living in the big cities thought.
But that perception began to change in the late 1950s, when California’s economy boomed and money was ploughed into infrastructure, making it a viable – and, crucially, trendy – alternative to the east coast powerhouses. Shulman, a visionary photographer, would play a small but important part in that drastic change in perception.
Born in Brooklyn in 1919 to Russian-Jewish immigrants, he spent his early years on his father’s farm in Connecticut. The family moved to Los Angeles when he was still a child and, after spending seven years at Berkeley (leaving without a degree), he returned to LA with lots of ideas but no direction. […]