Philippe Halsman’s Iconic Jump Portraits
By Maria Popova
Legendary Latvian-born American portrait photographer Philippe Halsman is one of the most innovative photographers of the 20th century. Over his lifetime, he shot 101 LIFE magazine covers, including the most famous photograph of Albert Einstein of all time.
But during the 1950s, he started a side project separate from the serious world of magazine cover photography: He began capturing some of the era’s most iconic artists, writers, actors, politicians and other public figures in a setup that defied the expectations of both their stature and the portraiture genre: Jumping. From Salvador Dali to Marilyn Monroe to Richard Nixon, his unmistakable, surprising and delightfully dynamic portraits survive in the form of a rare book plainly titled Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book.
When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears” ~ Philippe Halsman
Though the book is sadly out of print, you can score a used copy on Amazon or, if you’re lucky enough, your local library may carry it.
For a closer look at the iconic photographer’s creative process and quirk, we also highly recommend a companion read: Unknown Halsman, a fascinating exploration of Halsman’s lesser-known but remarkable work, including private and experimental photographs, decontextualized advertisements, and outtakes from famous photo shoots, many never before seen.
Published November 24, 2010