Philippe Halsman


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Photographer. Witty, ingenious, and technically accomplished, he specialized in celebrity portraits that probe the psychology of his sitters. For a celebrated series, he photographed subjects as they jumped into the air, letting down their guard with this playful act. Born in Riga, Russia (now Latvia), Halsman began taking pictures before enrolling in 1924 at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden to study electrical engineering until 1928. In 1930 he moved to Paris, where he became a successful portrait photographer. In surrealism he found keys to his artistic development, including the aesthetic value of surprise and the importance of psychology. “Dalí Atomicus” (1948) pictures Salvador Dalí aloft, along with his easel, a chair, three wet cats, and the arc of a bucket of water, all caught in split-second mid-trajectory. As the German army approached in 1940, Halsman fled to the United States and was later naturalized as a citizen. He settled permanently in New York, where he soon found success in advertising, fashion, and magazine photography. His 101 covers for Life magazine outnumber those of any other photographer. Halsman's publications include Dalí's Mustache (1954), pictures of his friend and frequent collaborator; Philippe Halsman's Jump Book (1959), images from the series begun in 1950; Philippe Halsman on the Creation of Photographic Ideas (1961); and Sight and Insight (1972).

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

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