halsman

When Paul worked at a used bookstore in college he bought two Philippe Halsman coffee table books: Philippe Halsman: A Retrospective and Halsman at Work. I love those books and we have enjoyed spending evenings side by side on the couch slowly paging through the photographs. If you don’t already know of him, Halsman is a portrait photographer who is perhaps best known for his 101 covers for Life Magazine, a record held by no other photographer. In his brief autobiography, which can be read at philippehalsman.com (and is well-worth reading), he says that his “great interest in life has been people,” and his challenge when photographing a face is to capture “the image which reveals most completely both the exterior and the interior of the subject…[which] should, today and a hundred years from today, be the testimony of how this person looked and what kind of human being he was.”

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The Halsman family’s self-portrait. Yvonne was a photographer as well who was Philippe’s apprentice before they were married. He liked to joke that the way to get rid of your competitor is to marry her.

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Halsman is famous for his portraits taken mid-jump. My favorite is this one of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, first published in Life magazine’s November 9, 1959 issue.

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Paul’s favorite is this surrealist collaboration with Salvador Dali. It’s amazing to think this was created pre-Photoshop.

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My favorite Halsman portrait of all time though is this one of writer/professor/lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov. “I have hunted butterflies in various climes and disguises: as a pretty boy in knickerboxers and sailor cap; as a lanky cosmopolitan expatriate in flannel bags and beret; as a fat hatless old man in shorts.” – Nabokov, Speak Memory

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