Philippe Halsman’s portraits of his most illustrious sitters jumping offer an insight into the hidden sides of their characters
"Most people stiffen with self-consciousness when they pose for a photograph. Lighting and fine camera equipment are useless if the photographer cannot make them drop the mask, at least for a moment, so he can capture on his film their real, undistorted personality and character"
- Philippe Halsman
Philippe Halsman was born in Riga and began to take photographs in Paris in the 1930s. He opened a portrait studio in Montparnasse in 1934, where he photographed André Gide, Marc Chagall, André Malraux, Le Corbusier and other writers and artists, using an innovative twin-lens reflex camera that he had designed himself.
He arrived in the United States in 1940, just after the fall of France, having obtained an emergency visa through the intervention of Albert Einstein.
In the course of his prolific career in America, Halsman produced reportage and covers for most major American magazines, including a staggering 101 covers for Life magazine. His assignments brought him face-to-face with many of the century’s leading personalities.
In 1945, he was elected the first president of the American Society of Magazine Photographers, where he led the fight for photographers’ creative and professional rights. His work soon won international recognition, and in 1951, he was invited by the founders of Magnum Photos to join the organization as a ‘contributing member’, so that they could syndicate his work outside the United States. This arrangement still stands.
Halsman began a thirty-seven-year collaboration with Salvador Dalí in 1941 which resulted in a stream of unusual Photographs of Ideas, including Dalí Atomicus and the Dalí’s Mustache series.
In the early 1950s, Halsman began to ask his subjects to jump for his camera at the conclusion of each sitting. These uniquely witty and energetic images have become an important part of his photographic legacy.