Monday, November 10, 2008

Unknown Halsman

Philippe Halsman Albert Einstein,gelatin silver print, 1947, ©Halsman Estate A poster of this picture hangs in my mother's apartment signed and given to my parents by Philippe Halsman, who was famous for his portraits of famous people. He had more covers of Life Magazine than any other photogrpher and made portraits of Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali and too many others to name here. When my daughter Jessica was little, she was afraid of this picture. I find it heartbreakingly sad. Halsman's portraits revealed the personalities of his subjects - he cared more about capturing the inner person than in just making a beautiful portrait. Philippe told us that when he was making the portrait he and Einstein were discussing the atomic bomb. As they were talking, Einstein's face reflected his sorrow over the destructive use of his theories - and at that moment Halsman tripped the shutter. The black and white picture won immediate acclaim and it remains the most popular likeness of the famous physicist. Einstein, who knew Philippe Halsman slightly, had saved his life by writing to Roosevelt to get him a visa so he could come to the U.S. in 1940 as the Nazis were occupying France. The books of his pictures are simply wonderful, from the Jump Book to Halsman Portraits - and I never tire of reading them. So what is this all about? There is a new Halsman book by Oliver Halsman Rosenberg, his grandson. Oliver found lots of brilliant, unpublished photos when he was going through his grandfather's archives: surrealistic, funny, quirky, shocking, weird, playful -- miraculous when you consider that there was no such thing as Photoshop when these black and white pictures were taken. Many were experiments and Philippe did everything in the darkroom. I bought my copy on Amazon. The author is currently in Paris for the opening of the exhibit (there is always an exhibit with a Halsman book launch) but I will ask him to sign it when and if he ever shows up in New Jersey.

1 comment:

Karoda said...

I was beginning to feel like Einstein looks (hell, maybe I was beginning to even look like that too) from being away from my workshop for so long...I'm okay now though, I returned on Thursday :)

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