Truculent photo subject

The most unusual Steve Jobs obituary this week might be the one that appeared in PDN Pulse, the blog of Photo District News. Jobs, it seems, was a legendarily truculent photo subject. PDN Pulse recounted some of the legends.

“It was the joke among photographers. He was like the nightmare subject,” said San Francisco photographer William Mercer McLeod, who photographed Jobs five times.

In 1986, Fortune magazine hired Doug Menuez to shoot a portrait of Jobs for the magazine’s cover. Menuez wanted to photograph him in the NeXT offices, on a staircase Jobs had commissioned from architect I.M Pei. Jobs arrived, looked over the setup, and leaned into Menuez’s face:

“This is the stupidest fucking idea that I’ve ever seen,” Jobs said.

“Right in my face, like 5 or 6 inches away,” Menuez says. “I felt like I was 10 years old. He went off on a tirade. He said, ‘You just want to sell magazines. ‘And I said, ‘And you want to sell computers.’

At that, Jobs said, ‘OK,’ and sat down.

Menuez concludes, “ I’ve been in war zones, but I like to say that I became a man learning how to stand my ground with Steve.”

When Albert Watson shot Jobs for a Fortune feature on CEOs, he insisted on having three hours to set up. PDN Pulse again:

“We were prepared,” Watson said. “We set up to make [every shoot] as greased lightning fast as possible for the [subject].” Watson had read “a massive amount of stuff” about Jobs to help him conceptualize the shoot, and converse intelligently with Jobs.

When Jobs walked in, 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 an hour, much more time than he generally allowed for portrait sessions.

“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,”

Apple cleared its home page Thursday to post that photograph, which, Watson heard, Jobs regarded as his his all-time favorite.”

H/T: Ashley Harding