May 5, 2009
This is a lightly edited passage from Philippe Halsman's classic Jump Book which was published in 1959 and dedicated "To my subjects who defied gravity".
Then came the crisis which changed everything. I was commissioned by the Ford Company to photograph for its fiftieth birthday, the entire Ford family...
There was the charming matriarch of one of the great American families, and suddenly, like a pang, I felt the burning desire to photograph her jumping.
'Are you going mad, Halsman?' I asked myself. "Will you propose that she jump—a grandmother and an owner of innumerable millions of dollars?"
I asked Mrs. Edsel Ford, "May I take a picture of you jumping?"
I have never seen an expression of greater astonishment. "You want me to jump with my high heels?" she asked incredulously.
I explained that it was not obligatory. Mrs. Edsel Ford asked her children to excuse her and went with me to the hall. She took her shoes off and jumped gracefully a couple of times. Suddenly I heard the voice of Mrs. Henry Ford behid me: "May I also jump for you, Philippe?"
A year and a half later I was telling René, my brother-in-law, that I already had a collection of sixty famous jumps and that I had not met with a refusal. René who is hopelessly French answered, "America is a young nation. Inside every American is an adolescent. But try to ask a Frenchman to jump. Il te rira ua nez - he will laugh into your nose!"
The following week I had to photograph a French writer, Romain Gary, for his book jacket. Gary jumped for me several times. His jumps were both romantic and heroic. It looked as though, in mid-air he was offering his chest to enemy bullets. After the sixth jump I closed my camera. Gary asked, "May I please jump once more? I don't think I have expressed myself completely."
Vaguely Related: Bounce