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 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 record 101 covers for Life magazine. His assignments brought him face-to-face with many of the century's leading personalities.