Sunday, January 14, 2007

Philippe Halsman • studies in jumpology

When He Said "Jump..."

Leaps by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

The freezing of motion has a long and fascinating history in photography, whether of sports, fashion or war. But rarely has stop-action been used in the unlikely, whimsical and often mischievous ways that Philippe Halsman employed it. Halsman arrived in the United States via Paris in 1940 where he became one of America's premier portraitists in a time when magazines were as important as movies among visual media. Halsman's pictures of politicians, celebrities, scientists and other luminaries appeared on the cover of Life magazine a record 101 times. And because of Halsman’s sense of play, we have the jump pictures—portraits of the well known, well launched.

This odd idiom was born in 1952, Halsman said, after an arduous session photographing the Ford automobile family to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary. As he relaxed with a drink offered by Mrs. Edsel Ford, the photographer was shocked to hear himself asking one of the grandest of Grosse Pointe's grande dames if she would jump for his camera. "With my high heels?" she asked. But she gave it a try, unshod—after which her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Henry Ford II, wanted to jump too.

"With my high heels?" asked Mrs. Edsel Ford when Halsman requested that she levitate.

For the next six years, Halsman ended his portrait sessions by asking sitters to jump. It is a tribute to his powers of persuasion that Richard Nixon, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Judge Learned Hand (in his mid-80s at the time) and other figures not known for spontaneity could be talked into rising to the challenge of...well, rising to the challenge. He called the resulting pictures his hobby, and in Philippe Halsman's Jump Book, a collection published in 1959, he claimed in the mock-academic text that they were studies in "jumpology."

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis went airborne in 1951 for a story Halsman was shooting about TV comics.

It may seem like a stretch to go from seeing funnymen jumping for joy to persuading, say, a Republican Quaker vice president to take the leap, but Halsman was always on a mission. ("One of our deepest urges is to find out what the other person is like," he wrote.) And like the true photojournalist he was, Halsman saw a jumpological truth in his near-perfect composition of Martin and Lewis.

Future president Richard M. Nixon

Philippe Halsman with Marilyn Monroe in 1959

photographs © Philippe Halsman Estate
texts from: When He Said "Jump..." by Owen Edwards



Louise Louis said...
you've been tagged! sorry about that

placeboKatz said...

you don´t know what you ask for ;)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About placeboKatz * But Were To Gentle to Ask :D

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