Philippe Halsman is a Latvian portrait photographer who was born in a Jewish family. In Dresden, he studied electrical engineering.
In 1928, Halsman’s father died in the Austrian Alps on a hiking tour, for which Halsman was arrested but was freed on a condition that he leaves Austria and this turned out to be good for him.
So, Philippe Halsman left for France and initiated in fashion magazines like Vogue. Soon he achieved a status among the best portrait photographers in the country. He is notorious for his close cropped photos and sharpness in images that stood prominent among the old fashioned soft focus photography.
Halsman managed to get an American visa with the help of Albert Einstein after he fled to Marseille after France was invaded.
In America, Elizabeth Arden used Halsman’s photo of Constance Ford in an advertising campaign for a lipstick, Victory Red. This was his first step towards success.
In 1941, he met Salvador Dali, a well-known surrealist artist and they worked in collaboration. A 1948 work by both the artists, Halsman and Dali, produced Dali Atomicus, influenced by Leda Atomica, Dali’s own work. It took 28 attempts for Halsman to get his desired result. Both of them then released a collection of their collaboration in Dali’s Mustache, in a book (1954). The work features thirty-six kinds of views of Dali’s idiosyncratic mustache. Another illustrious collaboration between the two was Dali’s surrealist portrait beside a large skull made from seven nude people, called In Voluptas Mors. It took Halsman 3 hours to position models in the effort to make a skull with their bodies by taking reference from Dali’s sketch. In Voluptas Mors was adopted subtly in The Silence of The Lambs, a film’s poster and recreated in The Descent’s film poster.
In 1942, he began working for Life magazine, photographing hat of different design and hence he did his first cover photo for Life by making a portrait of a model wearing a hat by Lilly Daché.
Then he clicked one of his most famed photographs in 1947, that of Albert Einstein’s in a mournful expression because during the session he was recounting his regrets on his role in America, tailing the atomic bomb. The photo was later used in the postage stamp of United States in 1966 and on Time magazine’s cover in 1999.
In 1951, NBC commissioned Halsman to take photographs of a variety of comedians of that time, like Sid Caesar, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Groucho Marx. While the comedians were performing, Halsman took images of them in mid air and these became inspirational photos for many jump pictures later, like that of The Duke & Duchess of Window, Maria Félix, Richard Nixon, Marilyn Monroe and the Ford family. In 1959, he published Philippe Halsman’s Jump book, a volume containing 178 photos of celebrities jumps and a discussion about jumpology.
In 1952, Philippe Halsman did two photography sessions with John F. Kennedy. One photo appeared on Profile in Courage original edition’s jacket cover and the second was used for campaigns for senator.
In 1958, the photographer was nominated in World’s Ten Greatest Photographers for Popular Photography. In1975, the American Society of Magazine Photographers gave him Photography Award for Life Achievement.
In 1961, Halsman on the Creation of Photographic Ideas, his book mentioned techniques for other photographers to create atypical work by using six rules.
Other than this, Philippe Halsman has photographed many celebrities, including Martin and Lewis, Winston Churchill, Dorothy Danridge, Judy Garland, Pablo Picasso and Alfred Hitchcock. Many of these images were featured on Life magazine’s covers.