The Jewish portrait photographer Philipp Halsmann came into the world in Riga, Latvia, on May 2, 1906. He undertook and completed his studies in electrical engineering in Dresden from 1924-28. In 1928, Philipp Halsmann was sentenced to 10 years in prison, accused of murdering his father. After an appeal of the case, which claimed international attention, he was acquitted in 1930 – the crime, however, remained unsolved.
At this point, Halsmann’s second life began: he moved to Paris and changed the spelling of his name to Philippe Halsman in order to leave his past behind him. First he began to work as a portrait photographer in a small hotel room, then in his own studio in Montparnasse. Halsman was successful – time and again, artists such as Chagall and Le Corbusier appear before his camera, and the first commissions from illustrated magazines started to come in.
However, as the political situation came to a head in 1940, Philippe Halsman fled to the US by way of southern France and Lisbon. There in 1941 he met the surrealist Salvador Dalí, for whom he produced many photographic works in the subsequent 30 years.
Philippe Halsman worked successfully as a freelance photographer for magazines – in total, 101 title page photographs in Life magazine were taken by him. A campaign for Elizabeth Arden heralded his definitive breakthrough in the US – Halsman became one of the most highly sought-after portrait photographers of celebrities. The list of famous people whom he immortalized is long and ranges from stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Ingrid Bergman to Winston Churchill, to Albert Einstein and John Steinbeck.
In these photographs, Philippe Halsman bravely utilized his creativity, for example in a portrait series where the models jump vertically into the air for the photo. In these pictures, Halsmann animated noblemen such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor or DalÍ (together with paintbrush, three cats and a chair) for a jump. In 1959 Philippe Halsman's Jump Book was published. Halsmann became an American citizen in 1948 and received many honors for his work; he also taught at several American universities.
Philippe Halsman died in New York on June 25, 1979.