When You Jump, The Real Person Appears

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Photographer Philippe Halsman, whose credits include more than 100 Life magazine covers, had an avante-garde approach to finding his subjects' souls. Jumping brings us to life.

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You may be familiar with the iconic Philippe Halsman image of Salvador Dali in mid-air with flying cats, disembodied arms, and floating furniture. But did you know that the Latvian-born photographer created an immense portfolio of jumping celebrities and public figures?

At 22, Halsman was sentenced to four years imprisonment after his father died of severe head injuries when the two men were on a hiking trip in the Austrian Alps. The evidence against Halsman was circumstantial, and his imprisonment gained international attention. With the support of family friend Albert Einstein, Halsman was released, but ordered to leave Austria. Halsman relocated to France, fleeing to Marseille when France was invaded during World War II, and eventually making his way to New York.

During his time in France, Halsman had become a renowned portrait photographer, and in 1942, after moving to New York, was hired by Life magazine. Halsman's work for Life was prolific, garnering him a record 101 cover photos.

When photographing public figures, Halsman would often ask his subjects to jump for a photo at the end of the shoot. Most photographers would shy away from such a bold request of their subjects, but Halsman was a master of persuasion.

Halsman called this photographic technique "Jumpology," stating that "When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears."

For more jumping shenanigans, be sure to check out Halsman's Jump Book.

Halsman and Marilyn Monroe, 1954

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Richard Nixon, 1955

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Professor J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1958

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Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, 1951

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Jean Seberg and Cat, 1959

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Grace Kelly, 1955

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Audrey Hepburn, 1955

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Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1956

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Dick Clark, 1952

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J. Fred Muggs, 1953

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A version of this post originally appeared on Mental Floss, an Atlantic partner site.

All images courtesy of The Philippe Halsman Estate
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Anna Gay is a photographer based in Athens, Georgia.

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