Long before jump shots became common and trivial, portrait photographer Philippe Halsman came up with the idea of “jumpology” and took some of the most interesting photos of people mid-leap. Among his celebrity “jumpers” are the Duke and Duchess of Windsor whom he photographed in 1956.
Like most portrait photographers, Latvian-born American photographer Philippe Halsman directed the poses and expressions of his sitters for his fashion magazine works during the 1930s. However, after each formal portrait session in the 1950s, he also asked his celebrity sitters, “May I take a picture of you jumping?”
With this question, Halsman began working with the concept and series which he called “jumpology”, a bold and unconventional technique around the time. His famous “jumpers” included Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Salvador Dali, Grace Kelly, and even politicians like Richard Nixon and royals like Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (whom he had already photographed for the May 1950 cover of LIFE Magazine).
Halsman’s 1956 jump shot of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, published on LIFE Magazine in November 1959, was perhaps unlike any other photograph of royals ever taken. Not only were they caught on film seemingly levitating and looking playful; the barefoot Duchess and the Duke in his patterned socks is a sight one rarely ever sees among the royalty.
So, why did his prominent subjects agree to be photographed jumping in whatever way they wanted to? LIFE says simply because Halsman asked them to. It only goes to show how much trust Halsman was able to secure from his subjects, don’t you think?
All information for this article were sourced from Wallis and Edward: Anti-Romance of the Century? on LIFE Magazine, LIFE Cover Portraits by Philippe Halsman on LIFE Magazine, DesignModo, The Reel Foto on Blogspot, and Lawrence Miller Gallery.
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.