The story begins in September 1928, when Halsman and his father were hiking in the Tyrolean Alps. While Halsman went ahead on the trail, his father was attacked and murdered. The Jewish 22 year old would be falsely accused of killing his father. The Jump Artist follows his life story from the murder and trial in Austria, into the depths of Halsman’s despair in prison, to his rise in Paris and New York as one of the world’s most renowned photographers.
Received my copy from the Penguin Books UK Proof Readers circle.
This is a fictionalised account of a little-known event in history – Halsman is accused of patricide after the death of his father whilst the pair are walking in the Alps. He is found guilty, spends several years in jail, but is finally pardoned on condition that he leaves Austria, never to return.
He recovers from Tuberculosis whilst in France, trains as an engineer, but ends up taking photographs. His talent increases and he starts to become well known for portrait photographs (doing the covers of Vogue etc). Finally, WWII starts, and he and his family escape France for America, where he finally achieves fame as a photographer of the famous.
This is not a dry, non-fiction biography. Especially in the first section of the book, there are jumps in narrative time, sometimes in the same chapter, once in a while the same paragraph. Slightly disconcerting, it however makes the story telling quite fluid.
I didn’t feel emotionally connected to Halsman very much throughout the book. I don’t know whether that was on purpose or not by the author. Halsman did come across as rather emotionally restrained, feeling the need to punish himself if he felt his emotions were too out of control. There were times where he comes across as OCD and almost autistic in not being able to react the correct way towards others (and especially girls).
The title refers to a series of portraits (including Monroe) where he takes their photos whilst they are jumping.