Muhammad Ali protecting his face with his gloves. A conversation between Hitchcock and Truffaut. The surrealist fantasy of 'Dalí Atomicus'. Marilyn posing for what would become her first LIFE magazine cover. Albert Einstein lookin mournful after revealing the effects of the atomic bomb. The artist who captured these iconic images of the 20th century is Philippe Halsman (Riga, 1906 – Nueva York, 1979), who staked his claim in the world of photography and stretched it to its limits. 'Photography is the youngest art form. All attempts to enlarge its frontiers are important and should be encouraged,' he wrote in the late 1960s in 'Focus on Myself'.
Trained as an engineer, Halsman started his photography career in Paris, where he worked for magazines like 'Vogue' and 'Vu', creating fashion features and the earliest portraits of celebrities (Chagal, Malraux, Le Corbusier). His success took him to the USA, with commissions for magazines – he shot a hundred covers for LIFE – which in turn opened doors to huge names on the cultural and political scenes of the time. He carried on in the face of the rice of television and advertising, and the decline of the written press, which he fought against with ingenuity and great technical prowess.
The various people and objects photographed by Halsman over the span of his 40-year career are the stars of this retrospective, 'Surprise me!', a production of Elysée Lausanne that comes to the CaixaForum in Madrid on the way from the one in Barcelona and the Jeu de Paume in Paris.