About the Photographer
Latvian, 1906 - 1979
Born in Latvia, Philippe Halsman moved to Paris in 1930 at the age of twenty-four. He quickly established his reputation as a photographer, becoming a contributor to a number of fashion magazines and opening a portrait studio in 1932. When the Nazis invaded the city in 1940, Halsman secured an emergency visa to the United States with the aid of Albert Einstein, who knew Halsman’s sister. Halsman became an American citizen in 1948. In New York Halsman began to work for Life magazine, which had been published for only six years at the time, as the circulation and influence of the magazine began to grow. Halsman contributed one hundred and one covers to Life – more than any other photographer – until the magazine ceased weekly publication in 1972. He became well known for his unguarded and playful portraits of stars and cultural figures such as Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, and Alfred Hitchcock. Discussing his portraiture, Halsman said, "Most people stiffen with self-consciousness when they pose for a photograph. Lighting and fine camera equipment are useless if the photographer cannot make them drop the mask, at least for a moment, so he can capture on his film their real, undistorted personality and character."
Some of Halsman's best-known photographs are of the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, whom he first met in 1941. Halsman had a longstanding appreciation for Surrealism, and in the late 1940s he began to collaborate with Dalí, commencing a creative partnership that would continue intermittently for more than three decades. The Halsman/Dali portfolio showcases ten of Halsman's photographs made between 1948 and 1964, including the famous image Dali Atomicus (1948). In this photograph, Halsman captures Dalí in mid-air along with two of his paintings, a bucket of water, and three flailing cats. Dalí Atomicus was published as a two-page spread in LIFE. Other portraits from the portfolio were published in the book Dali's Mustache (1954), which comprises thirty-six pictures of the artist and his unmistakable mustache.
Halsman joined Magnum Photos in 1951, becoming a Contributing Member in 1956. He photographed John F. Kennedy twice in 1952, and one of Halsman’s photographs appeared on the original edition of Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy (1955). He was listed in Popular Photography's "World's Ten Greatest Photographers" in 1958, and he received the Life Achievement in Photography Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers in 1975. His work has been exhibited internationally, including a traveling retrospective mounted with Cornell Capa (1975) and a posthumous retrospective at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC (1998-1999). Books by Halsman include Dali’s Mustache (1954, reissued 1994), Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book (1959, reissued 1986), and Philippe Halsman on the Creation of Photographic Ideas (1961).