Philippe Halsman, with an unsurpassed 101 LIFE magazine covers to his credit, had the bold and unconventional idea back in the 1950’s to ask the famous and prominent people he was commissioned to photograph for the likes of LIFE, LOOK and the Saturday Evening Post, once the formal sessions were over, to jump! The results were amazing, as each subject interpreted this bizarre request in their own unique way, often defying their typical public image. We see Richard Nixon as he floats twelve inches above the floor with a peaceful smile on his face, a far cry from the scowl many of us ultimately remember him by. And there is the rather large Jackie Gleason, in a handsome dark suit and his fingers extended wide, defying gravity as he lifts off, and from somewhere off-camera we can’t help but hear “To the moon, Alice.”
Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Salvador Dali, Weegee, Jack Dempsey and even the Duke and Duchess of Windsor agreed to take a leap of faith. In that era of live television along with the popularity of the big glossy magazines, one’s image was not nearly as protected and shaped by handlers as it is today. There was a feeling of innocence, a desire for spontaneity, and Halsman, with his playful and charming personality, knew he had to get almost everyone to oblige his demand: JUMP
Philippe Halsman was born in Latvia in 1906, and began his photographic career in Paris in the early 1930’s. He emigrated to New York in the fall of 1940, as Paris fell to the Nazis. He soon became one of the most prominent photographers in America., his photographs published widely and regularly. He died in 1979. His photographs have been collected and exhibited by museums around the world.