Author(s): Philippe Halsman
Damiani takes great pleasure in re-publishing this classic photo book from 1959 in a beautifully printed facsimile edition. With nearly 200 photographs of Halsman's famous subjects in midair, these uniquely witty and energetic images of airborne movie stars, politicians, royalty, artists, and authors have become an important part of Halsman's photographic legacy. For six years in the mid-1950s, he ended his portrait sessions by asking his sitters to jump. Grace Kelly hikes her skirt with surprising moxie. Marilyn Monroe, Edward Steichen, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Oppenheimer, John Steinbeck, Weegee, Aldous Huxley, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Brigitte Bardot, and Groucho Marx all take the leap of faith - ensuring that we see something about them that we hadn't quite seen before. It is a tribute to Halsman's powers of persuasion that Richard Nixon, the Duke & Duchess of Windsor, Judge Learned Hand (in his mid-80s at the time) and other figures not known for their spontaneity could be talked into rising to the challenge. He called the resulting pictures his hobby. And in Philippe Halsman's Jump Book, he tells us, with mock-academic wit, that the photos are studies in the new science of Jumpology. The jumps took place wherever the rest of the shoot had been located: in the studio, outside or inside, at the subject's home or workplace. "When you ask a person to jump," Halsman wrote, "his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping, and the mask falls, so that the real person appears." As Roberta Smith, chief art critic of the New York Times, wrote in her review of the 2010 Halsman/ Jump exhibit in New York: "There is a sublime silliness to Halsman's images that can make you laugh regardless of how often you see them. They offer incontrovertible proof of Schiller's claim that 'all art is dedicated to joy.' Evidently the simple act of getting off the ground requires giving in to something like joy. You have to let go." It is not coincidental that Halsman devised Jumpology in the era of Action Painting, which sowed the seeds that would soon grow into performance art. Roberta Smith continues: "Halsman pushed his own form, the studio portrait, to extremes, exaggerating its basic components in ways that make us more aware of them: the trust that must exist between photographer and subject; the split-second 'performance' that any still camera captures; the uncontrollable revelations of character; the way we all try to rise, as it were, to the occasion of a photograph."