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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Philippe Halsman

Dates:  1906, 2 May - 1979, 25 June
Born:  Latvia, Riga
Died:  US, NY, New York
Active:  US
 
  
Best remembered for his ‘Jump‘ series in which he persuaded famous people to leap. The photographs of Salvador Dali and the Windsors are widely reproduced.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Philippe Halsman
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)

 
  
Philippe Halsman studied engineering in Dresden before moving to Paris to open a photographic portrait studio in 1932. There he photographed public figures including politicians, intellectuals and actors. When Paris fell to the Nazi forces in 1940, Halsman fled to America.
 
He received his first commission for Life magazine in 1942 and went on to produce over one hundred magazine covers between 1942 and 1971. Halsman’s sitters included film stars and celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe and artists such as Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali and Georgia O’Keefe. He stated that the ‘fascination with the human face has never left me…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’.
 
His work is, at times, saturated with humour. In the 1950s he produced a series of ‘jump’ photographs, capturing his sitters – including figures such Richard Nixon, vice-president at the time – mid air. Halsman claimed that these photographs, usually taken at the end of a portrait sitting, revealed the real character of the celebrity. 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.
 
  

Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
The publishing world’s desire to promote and capitalize on the notion of fame can be seen in Halsman’s incisive celebrity portraits that appeared on over 100 covers of LIFE as well as in magazines such as Saturday Evening Post and Paris Match. Halsman believed the portraitist’s most important tools were conversation and psychology, not technique. Halsman utilized playful methods, like jumping in the air, to unmask his subjects and divulge their essence. 
  
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Portraits 
  
If you have a portrait of this photographer or know of the whereabouts of one we would be most grateful. 
  
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Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
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Visual indexes

 
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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography.Show on this siteGo to website
 

Internet resources

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Magnum Photos 
http://www.magnumphotos.com ... 
Probably the world‘s most famous photo agency for photojournalists. Use this site to access the portfolios, biographies of the many notable Magnum photographers. Where there are books by the photographers the website frequently includes the photographs used. 
  
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.227 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.240-241 
  
• Coke, Van Deren with Diana C. Du Pont 1986 Photography: A Facet of Modernism (New York: Hudson Hills Press, The San Francisco Museum of Art) p.174 
  
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
  
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Philippe Halsman.] 
  
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.156-157 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.249 
  

Collections

Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 
  

 
In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Philippe Halsman was represented in 60 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
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