City of Angels: Play the Game

It’s night. Two women chat in a corner that floats over the lights of LA. Shot in 1960, Julius Shulman’s iconic photo defined a time, a design aesthetic and a city.

The Gamerz visited the home Shulman photographed, the glass-walled modernist Stahl House in the Hollywood Hills. And each shot a photo aimed at making the kind of statement about 2011 that Shulman made about 1960.

Here’s how you play:

  1. Look at the photo.
  2. Read the explanations.
  3. Rate each photo.
  4. Add your comments.

The most popular photo wins, of course. But more importantly, our goal is to create a curated comment string that could become a new kind of crowd-sourced journalism. In a built-out game, we’d allow players to take their own photos and post them, too.

Go ahead.  Play!


Click to examine photo.

PHOTO #1 – Beauty, Redefined

Julius Shulman staged his iconic photo of the Stahl House with the epitome of Los Angeles beauty of the era: a pair of white women decked out in white party frocks. Today, in a minority majority city with a vast array of aesthetic options, beauty is a lot harder to pin down. Still (to steal from Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography): You know it when you see it. – Rick Holter

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Click to examine photo.

PHOTO #2 – “For now we see through a glass, darkly.”

Julius Shulman’s great 1960 photograph of the Stahl house summed up the promise of post-World War Two Southern California: clean, hygienic, modern living,  away from the manual labor of having to till the soil, lives filled with sunlight and plentiful fresh food and water, all that filled us with optimism. Shulman’s young women nearly become angels, floating above the earth. Elegantly dressed, they wait for glamour.

In my 2011 photo illustration of the Stahl house, the family waits for Godot. The house is empty, as was Godot’s world. The promises of the California dream may have been empty promises. Should our miserable economy continue, with the lack of political leadership, failed government policies, extended wars, and environmental degradation, we will see the return of the landless, migrant American family, mired in poverty and dust, California no longer their promised land, just a see-through way-station to flee, with nowhere to go. – Edward Lifson

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PHOTO #3 –  The place where longing is most acute

I longed to step out onto that small, curving cement slab at the farthest reach of the glassed-in Stahl House living room; the last stop before the cliff edge. That’s the place where the ethereal modern gem best blends with the Los Angeles skyline. Visitors aren’t allowed out there; for insurance reasons, we were told. Too bad. I suspect the longing is most acute there. The longing to live in Hollywood, at the top of a treacherous winding road, in a house made mostly of air and sunlight and reflections off the pool; the longing to belong in the elegant Shulman photo, with women in white dresses and twinkling city lights; the longing to live in 1959, when there was a clearer future and a clearer past, when you were either for the Stahl House or against it, when you knew where you stood, when the aesthetic dividing line – as a colleague pointed out – was as clear and crisp as the edge of that curving cement slab.

Speaking of that curve, I long to know how much of the crystalline Stahl House design was owner Buck Stahl’s idea or that of the architect Pierre Koenig. I’m pulling for Buck, the visionary everyman, who hauled the broken cement up the winding road to prepare the precarious foundation. There’s a photo of Buck with a model of the house that may predate Koenig’s involvement. In the model, the bank of bedrooms curve; just like the cement slab that ends at the sky. — Doug MacCash

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Click to examine photo.

PHOTO #4 – Foundation issues

The Stahl House is a triumph of clean lines, purity and lightness. Julius Shulman’s photograph depicts not only a home, but a country, elegantly and effortlessly perched on a hill. Who wouldn’t want to live in that home, in that country?  My picture tilts the lens downwards.  We glimpse the foundation below, the product of Buck Stahl’s mid-century can-do-ism (he built it on his own with leftover chunks of sidewalk!) and the residue of millions of years of geology.  The house appears as if it could fall down the mountain at any moment.  Now, in 2011, we see the precipitous contours that lie beneath our objects of beauty. — Alison MacAdam

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  1. Wow. I never play games and would never have predicted something so engaging to me could have sprung from that paradigm. This exercise has first and foremost made me very interested in all these writers. And usually I just cannot read other arts journalists — I don’t find inspiration there. But I love all these voices and want to read more. I would also like to sic them on more sites that blend time like this.


  1. Game On! says:

    […] of Angels. Give it a visit. Share this: Filed Under: Gamerz Blog Tagged With: activision, Angry Birds, arts journalism, call […]