Into the Archives: Philippe Halsman’s Jump Series

Picture 10

Following his work in fashion magazines, Philippe Halsman became highly regarded for his portrait photography, featured everywhere from beauty campaigns for Elizabeth Arden, to Life magazine, where he secured a record 101 covers for the publication. When working in Paris, he drew inspiration from the surrealists, notably Salvador Dali, with whom he grew to have a three-decade long friendship and working relationship. One of Halsman’s most iconic photos, “Dali Atomicus,” acted as his foray into the surrealist’s fascination with psychology, with the artist frequently experimenting on his subjects. In one such experiment, he asked Marilyn Monroe to stand in a corner, where she was then surrounded by a crew of three men, and began to elicit her notoriously flirtatious nature.

Halsman often became frustrated with the constraint of the traditional portrait, and tested an alternative method following a particularly difficult assignment, hoping to bring about a more natural, and true, reaction from his subjects. In 1952, the Ford Motor Company had asked Halsman to photograph the Ford family to commemorate the company’s fiftieth anniversary. Once the particularly rigid shoot was through, Halsman asked Mrs. Edsel Ford, “May I take a picture of you jumping?” and she complied.  The Jump Series continued for six more years, with Halsman marking the end of each photo session with a few jumps from willing participants.  To describe his methodology, Halsman explained, “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.” His experiences in “Jumpology” were later described by the artist in 1959’s self-penned Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book.

Marilyn Monroe with Halsman in 1954 (L) and in 1959.

Marilyn Monroe with Halsman in 1954 (L) and in 1959.

The one that started it all: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1956.

The one that started it all: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1956.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, 1951. When photographing comedians, he reflected that they tended to stay in character, even mid-jump.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, 1951. When photographing comedians, he reflected that they tended to stay in character, even mid-jump.

Audrey Hepburn :] , 1955.

Audrey Hepburn :] , 1955.

Richard Nixon, 1955. At least there's a smile, eh?

Richard Nixon, 1955. At least there’s a smile, eh?

Alduous Huxley, 1958.

Aldous Huxley, 1958.

Grace Kelly, 1959.

Grace Kelly, 1959.

Donald O'Conner, in a pose akin to his character in Singin' in the Rain.

Donald O’Conner, in a pose akin to his character in Singin’ in the Rain.

Halsman's infamous "Dalic Atomicus," 1947.

Halsman’s infamous “Dali Atomicus,” 1947.

All photos courtesy of the Lawrence Miller Gallery.

Feature photo includes, from L to R, Edward Villela (1961), Brigitte Bardot (1951), and Eva Marie Saint (1954).

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