BELOW AND LEFT: Martien Mulder’s book feels “like an architectural walk through the city,” she says. Mulder produced the
project for herself, rather than as a promotion. Giving copies to longtime clients and people she admires has been a
way to let them know what she’s passionate about. “Everyone who sees it sees that this is so me,” she says.
Martien Mulder’s 2016 self-published book, The City Beautiful, celebrates
the architecture of Chandigarh, the Punjabi city designed by Le Corbusier
after Indian independence. Mulder, who shoots portraits, fashion and travel,
had first visited Chandigarh on an assignment 15 years ago. “It’s rich in
color and graphic shapes,” she says. “I wanted to go back to focus only
on the poetics of the architecture itself.” In 2011, she spent ten days
exploring the forms of the concrete buildings in the harsh sunlight, guided by Le Corbusier’s principle:
“Architecture is the skillful, correct and magnificent play of volumes assembled in light.” She says
of the project, “It was the first time I went on a trip saying: I just wanted to create work for myself.”
Back at home in New York, she felt she had the makings of a book. After editing and reediting her
images, she consulted Hans Seeger, an art director, “design fanatic” and friend who has published
dozens of books. He asked Mulder what her budget was. She had set aside $20,000 to cover printing,
binding and Seeger’s fee. His design, to be printed on uncoated stock, incorporated gatefold pages
with cutouts mimicking Le Corbusier’s architecture. The juxtapositions of images made the book
“like an architectural walk through the city.” In her spare time, Mulder adjusted the sequencing, and
Seeger made more revisions, “until we were satisfied with all those elements,” she says.
Fox Company in Milwaukee printed 750 copies. Seeger kept some, Mulder sold some through
Dashwood Books in New York, at a booksigning in Paris, and through a European distributor. The rest
she gave to creatives she admires and clients who have worked with her over the past 15 years.
She says of the gifts, “This is to say: This is who you’ve helped me become.”
Among the recipients was Jennifer Pastore, photography director at WSJ. magazine, who had
previously assigned Mulder to shoot fashion and portrait stories. “It’s just a beautiful book. The
photography is beautiful and the way she’s presented it is singular,” Pastore says. She likes seeing
photographers’ personal projects, she says. “You see what sparks their passions. You hope to find an
assignment that connects with that, hoping to capture that spark for the magazine.” Pastore says WSJ.
recently assigned Mulder two “biggish assignments,” as yet unpublished, that suit her sensibility and
harness her love of design, architecture and travel. Mulder had previously talked about her interest in
architecture, Pastore recalls, but the book “helped refine our sense of the work she most wants to do.”
By self-publishing, Mulder was able to craft a book that expressed her “best self,” she says.
“Everyone who sees it sees that this is so me.” —HOLLY STUART HUGHES