Photographers who capture an iconic image are often confronted with a paradox: the celebration of a single photograph overshadows the entirety of an artistic oeuvre. Yet what happens in those rare situations when a single photographer is responsible for scores of iconic images?
This question is explored by the Halsman: Facets and Faces exhibition. Philippe Halsman (b. Riga, 1906; d. New York, 1979) remains one of history’s most esteemed photographers, yet there is no consensus as to what constitutes his most important work. The groundbreaking jumpology series that created a bold vision of identity through movement? His famed pictures of Alfred Hitchcock that set a new standard for interpretive portrait photography? His collaborations with Salvador Dalì that are a monument of the Surrealist movement? By juxtaposing these disparate facets of Halsman’s artistic expression, this exhibition seeks to assemble a harmonious portrait of a photographer whose genius transcends any single image.
°CLAIR Gallery presents Halsman: Facets and Faces from December 15, 2016 to January 31, 2017 at Franz-Joseph-Strasse 10 in Munich. Vernissage the evening of December 15, 19h30. For more information, contact Anna-Patricia Kahn at email@example.com.
Photographer Philippe Halsman had an exemplary career. Over a forty-year period, in Paris during the 1930s and in New York from 1940 on, he developed a broad range of activities (portraits, fashion, reportage, advertisements, personal projects, commissions from individuals and institutions).Born in 1906 in Riga, Latvia, Halsman studied engineering in Dresden before moving to Paris, where he opened a photographic studio in 1932. His years in Paris already heralded the approach he was to develop throughout his long career. A studio and reportage photographer, Halsman took inspiration from the contemporary art scene and participated in promoting it. Though he specialised in portraiture, he also branched out into advertising and publishing, which were thriving at the time. In 1940, the German invasion brought Halsman’s prosperous career to a halt, leading him to flee with his family to New York. Though initially unknown, he succeeded in establishing himself on the American market in under a year, and his studio soon became successful. Halsman stood out for his “psychological” approach to portraiture.
He distinguished himself in this area with his vast portrait gallery of celebrities (actors, industrialists, politicians, scientists, writers). Some of these images, such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill or Albert Einstein, became icons. He produced the largest number of covers (101) for Life magazine, the first weekly magazine to be illustrated only by photographs.
Halsman’s photography is characterised by a direct approach, masterful technique and a particular attention to detail. His work testifies to his constant research and his interest in all forms of technical and aesthetic experimentation, which he applied to a wide variety of subjects. For Halsman, photography was an excellent way of giving his imagination free reign. He was especially interested in mises en scène – in the form of single images or fictional series. He met Salvador Dalí in 1941 and the artist turned out to be the ideal accomplice. Their fruitful collaboration lasted 37 years. Philippe Halsman also introduced innovations through more personal creations such as the “photo-interview book” or ‘jumpology’.