Six Photography Rules, Jumpology, and Dali: Philippe Halsman Biography

Photo by Philippe Halsman
  1. Be straightforward to create a strong photo.
  2. Use light, angle, and composition in a non-conventional way.
  3. Add something strange, unusual, and out-of-place to the photo to attract the viewer's attention.
  4. Go against the viewer's expectations by removing or hiding something in the photo.
  5. Combine all of that to make the photo even more unusual.
  6. Show the subject as clearly as possible to illustrate the message.

These were the six rules that Philippe Halsman, who was considered one of the world's ten greatest photographers by Popular Photography magazine, coined and explained in his 1961 book Halsman on the Creation of Photographic Ideas.

He was born to a Jewish family on 2 May 1906 in what is now Latvia. When he was 22 he was falsely accused of a murder of his father—due to alleged antisemitic regulations present in Austria back at the time—and was sentenced to ten years of prison. However, later in 1930 he was released as some important European intellectuals, including Einstein and Freud, endorsed his innocence.

Photo by Philippe Halsman

He immigrated to France and started working as a photographer for Life magazine, soon enough becoming the most famous portrait photographer in the country. After that, when the Germans invaded France, he managed to get himself a US visa and go to the New World.

Photo by Philippe Halsman

The first famous photo he took in the US was of Constance Ford on the background of the US flag for the ad campaign of Victory Red lipstick by Elizabeth Arden.

 

Photo by Philippe Halsman

In 1941 he met Salvador Dalí with whom he closely worked for almost ten years and made such iconic works as Atomicus, In Voluptas Mors, and the photobook on Dalí's moustaches.

Photo by Philippe Halsman

1947 became the year when Halsman took a famous photo of sad Albert Einstein in his thinking and regretting on having helped to created the atomic bomb.

"The idea was that the head of the photographer is more important than his camera," he said. And he was absolutely right.

Photo by Philippe Halsman

And if you ever wondered why people jump on photos—and we bet you did—then once again you should address the works of Phillipe Halsman as he was the first photographer who started making photos of people jumping. He said that the most difficult thing in portrait photography was to capture the person's face as it is, without a mask of formality or unnaturalness.

Photo by Philippe Halsman

Halsman said that only when in jump one shows its real self. He took more than 160 photos of people jumping, including Richard Nixon, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Dali, and others, featuring these pictures in a book he published in 1959 where he coined the term 'Jumpology'. 

Photo by Philippe Halsman

Among his other famous models were Alfred Hitchcock, Martin and Lewis, Judy Garland, Winston Churchill, Dorothy Dandridge, Pablo Picasso, John F. Kennedy, and many many more.

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