Philippe Halsman was an American portrait photographer born on 2nd May 1906. He originally studied electrical engineering in Dresden. In 1928 he was accused of murdering his father on a hiking trip and was convicted on circumstantial evidence. His friends family and legal support worked on his release with the support from famous intellectuals Freud, Einstein, Thomas Mann, Henri Hertz, and Paul Painlevé. They succeeded and he was pardoned and released in 1930. He then moved to France and started producing work for fashion magazines such as Vogue and quickly became known as one of the best portrait photographers in France. He became famous for his sharp in focus Portraiture as appose to the soft focus that was often used. He fled to Marseille when Germany invaded France. He later got a visa to the U.S. with the help of his friend Albert Einstien, his first success in America was with a cosmetic company called Elizabeth Arden. The following year he worked for Life magazine photographing hat designs.
When Philippe Halsman met the surrealist artist Salvador Dali the collaborated work and explored the idea of suspension. This all done before the age of photoshop. You can feel the fun and humour behind the shot even though Philippe said it took 28 attempts to get the photograph just right. The name of the photograph is a reference to the surrealist Artist Dali’s work titled “Leda Atomica” which can be seen behind the two cats. He used both stage and darkroom to create photos of objects defying gravity and invented new ways to interact with subjects.
I would say his most historical portrait would be the one of Albert Einstein in 1947, during which Albert discusses with Philippe his regrets over his part in the U.S pursuing the atomic bomb.
His portraiture was either very surreal or iconic. He paid allot of attention to portraitures where he got his subject to jump, he even developed a philosophy of jump photography and named it jumpology, he even published a humorous book on the subject. He later produced a book called the Creation of Photographic Ideas, in this book he touches on ways for photographers to produce unique pieces of work by following six rules, the rule of the direct approach, the rule of the unusual technique, the rule of the added unusual feature, the rule of the missing feature, the rule of compounded features and the rule of the literal or ideographic method. He talks extensively about these ideas.
As well as photographing Salvador Deli and Albert Einstien he also photographed Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Marilyn Monroe, María Félix, Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy.
Philippe Halsman was listed in Popular Photography magazine's "World's Ten Greatest Photographers" and in 1975 he received the Life Achievement in Photography Award.
He died on 25th June 1979