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May 2: Halsman’s Jumpology

May 1, 2016

Halsman_14Photographer Philippe Halsman, whose portraits of Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, Pablo Picasso, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and numerous other people of fame became internationally known, was born in Riga, Latvia on this date in 1906. At age 22, he was falsely accused of the murder of his father, who had died while hiking in the mountains with him, and spent two years in prison before being pardoned and released at the behest of numerous public intellectuals, including Sigmund Freud and Einstein. Halsman took himself to France and became a fashion and portrait photographer noted for his sharply focused, close-cropped style (he used an innovative twin-lens reflex camera that he designed himself). In 1942, after staying ahead of the Nazi conquest of France and then emigrating to the U.S., he began working for Life magazine, for which he produced an unmatched 101 covers over the course of three decades. In 1945 he was elected the first president of the American Society of Magazine Photographers. A series of 1950s photos in which he asked his subjects to jump produced a 1959 book of 178 photos of celebrity jumpers and a tongue-in-cheek philosophy of jumpology. To see a montage of his photographs, click here and scroll down. Halsman died in New York in 1979.

“Every face I see seems to hide — and sometimes fleetingly to reveal — the mystery of another human being. Capturing this revelation became the goal and passion of my life.” —Philippe Halsman