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Breaking Down the Film


Henri Dauman arrived in New York on December 12, 1950 on the Liberté. With nearly empty pockets he set out to follow the promise of the life he had always desired, leaving the tragedy of his past behind. At first sight, Henri is a self-made photographer who rose through the ranks to become one of the most highly regarded photographers in the world. His cinematic style has allowed him to capture some of the biggest names and events in history with a unique perspective. But behind the lens of his Nikon camera is an awe inspiring man who has time-and-again refused to submit to the adversity of his early life. The Holocaust robbed Henri of both of his parents, leaving him an orphan at age thirteen. Now, sixty-five years later, his success is not only defined by his million picture archive but by his thirty five relatives that traveled halfway across the world to honor his life’s work in his most recent retrospective exhibition opening in Paris.


Henri’s body of work is a who’s-who of the most influential people of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He photographed people whose impact still reverberates today. What resulted was a timeless portfolio of an estimated one million negatives. Henri didn’t just photograph these icons, he had enlightened discussions with his subjects and learned from them, and about them, in ways that enriched his life and informed his art. He walked away from these experiences with not just photographs, but a plethora of stories gained from discussing life, love, art, and politics with luminaries such as Andy Warhol, Elvis Presley, Jane Fonda, Marshall McLuhan, Harpo Marx, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and many more.


Using the movies as a way to escape his tumultuous childhood Henri was always mesmerized by the New York City he saw on the big screen. It was always a magical, unknown world to him. His picturesque view of New York City only grew when he had to struggle through the bleakness of post-WWII Paris as an orphan. When he finally arrived, the seemingly never-ending towering skyscrapers of his new home immediately transfixed Henri. One day, as he walked the streets, Henri began to place his wide-angle Leica camera on the sidewalk to take photographs that mimicked his astonishment. He sold this photo story to the New York Times, calling the series “New York Looking Up.” The series is now included in the permanent collection of the MoMA. In every sense, “Looking Up” captures Henri’s boyish enthusiasm for life and continual refusal to never give up.

``It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.``

Henry David Thoreau