The exhibition ‘Astonish Me’, at the Kunsthal Rotterdam is a retrospective of work by Philippe Halsman (1906 -1979), one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. Halsman is well-known for his portraits of famous people and for his collaboration with Salvador Dalí and Alfred Hitchcock. He was always searching for new photographic perspectives, and his oeuvre exposes an exceptional degree of inventiveness and technical skill. Over a short period of time, he became an admired portrait artist, the subjects in front of his lens including numerous famous names such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. He also developed the phenomenon of ’jumpology photography’, which included photos of film stars and politicians captured in mid-jump, the aim of which was to give his portraits a more spontaneous character. Over three hundred never-before exhibited works including contact prints, vintage prints and original photomontages illustrate Halsman's constant search for photographic possibilities and impossibilities.
Perfectly mastered technique and a remarkable eye for detail
Philippe Halsman's direct approach, perfectly mastered technique, his remarkable eye for detail and his experiments using the medium of photography resulted in a highly diverse oeuvre ranging from portraits, fashion, photo reports, advertising, personal projects and commissions for institutions and private customers. Using a different style to that of his fellow photographers, he developed an entirely unique photographic style. His fascination with the surreal brought Halsman into contact with like-minded, contemporary artists with whom he loved to spend countless hours exchanging ideas. That collaboration resulted in the iconic photographs now so familiar to us all; photographs such as the Hitchcock portrait series and Dalí Atomicus (1948) with its flying cats, water thrown from buckets and an astonished Dalí, mid jump with paintbrush in hand.
The exhibition also focuses on Halsman’s way of working in which he gave himself a set of rules resulting in a unique visual style. Halsman approached his subjects directly and committed himself to using unconventional photographic techniques. It was in this way that in 1950 he came up with the concept of ‘jumpology photography’, a novel way of creating spontaneous, authentic portraits. Halsman once said, ‘When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed towards the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.’ Over a period of 10 years, using jumpology, Halsman created an extraordinary series of portraits showing American ‘celebrities’.
The exhibition ‘Astonish Me!', which is a collaboration with Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, is rich in content and shows an intriguing number of works from Philippe Halsman’s family archives which have never before been exhibited.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue entitled ‘Philippe Halsman. Astonish Me!' by Prestel Publishing. The 320-page publication presents the very first study of Philippe Halsman's complete body of work. The book includes two essays: one on his creative process, by Anne Lacoste, curator of the exhibition, and another on his collaboration with Salvador Dalí, by Marc Aufraise. Completing the study are a text by the Halsman family describing their most personal memories of the photographer and a detailed chronology.
The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive programme of activities for every age. Just like Halsman, visitors can experiment with photography at different spots in the exhibition and be ‘astonished’!
Opening Saturday 27 February 5.30 pm
Saturday 27 February 2016 the exhibition will open at 5.30 pm in the presence of the curators of Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne. Press is warmly invited to attend.
Press can preview the exhibition prior to opening by appointment. Please register your visit and interview requests by sending an e-mail to [email protected]