Salvador Dali and Suspended Animation

Photograph/Phillippe Halsman

Photograph/Phillippe Halsman

This story was originally published in May 2014.

Salvador Dali was famous for his surrealist paintings. To effectively convey Dali’s eccentricities, Phillippe Halsman, an American photographer, interpreted one of Dali’s paintings, the Leda Atomica. Both Dali and Halsman were intrigued by the concept of suspension. So, in 1948, at Halsman’s New York studio, they suspended an easel, two Dali paintings and a step stool by strings, from the ceiling; while Halsman’s wife held the chair by its leg. While all these items appeared to be a part of the massive confusion and motion of the picture, they were actually fixed in place. However, a timing sequence was developed to synchronise the throwing of the cats, the jets of water and Dali’s jump. On the count of three, Halsman’s assistants would throw the cats and the water up in the air. Then on four, Dali would jump!

That is when Halsman would take the picture using a 4 X 5 format Twin Lens Reflex camera. In his notes, Halsman wrote that it took six hours and 28 throws to get the final picture. Shown here is the unedited version of the photograph that was published as a two-page spread in a 1948 edition of LIFE magazine.

Tags: Quirky, may 2011, Phillippe Halsman, Salvador Dali, 1948 Life magazine, Story behind the image, blackandwhite, suspended