Steve Jobs: Visionary, Inventor, and Very Challenging Photo Subject
By David Walker
Albert Watson, who photographed Jobs just once for a portfolio of people in power that Fortune commissioned him to shoot in 2006, had a different experience from other photographers. “The one thing I insisted on was that we have a three hour window of set up time,” Watson says. “We were prepared…we set up to make [every shoot] as greased lightning fast as possible for the [subject].’ Watson says he had also read “a massive amount of stuff” about Jobs to help him conceptualize the shoot, and so he would be able to converse with Jobs intelligently.
When Jobs walked in, Watson says that his power, charisma and genius were palpable. “It was like when Clint Eastwood walks in to the room.”
Jobs didn’t look immediately at Watson, but looked instead at the set-up and then focused on Watson’s 4×5 camera “like it was something dinosauric,” Watson recalls, “and he said, ‘Wow, you’re shooting film.”
“I said, ‘I don’t feel like digital is quite here yet.’ And he said, ‘I agree,’ then he turned and looked at me and said, ‘But we’ll get there.’”
Jobs gave Watson about an hour–much longer than he ever gave most photographers for a portrait session. “I had wanted to do the shot in a minimalistic way because I knew that was going to suit him very well. He said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ I said I would like 95 percent, almost 100 percent of eye contact with the camera, and I said, ‘Think about the next project you have on the table,’ and I asked him also to think about instances where people have challenged him.
“If you look at that shot, you can see the intensity. It was my intention that by looking at him, that you knew this guy was smart,” Watson says, adding, “I heard later that it was his favorite photograph of all time.”
Apple cleared its home page today to post that photograph as a tribute to Jobs.