Steve Jobs and the Truth

William Mercer McLeod, then an assistant for Ed Kashi:

“It was in the late 80s. Jobs walked into the photo shoot and started moving the lights around. Then he picked up the phone and called the art director in New York and said he wanted to do something different.”

A subject who are being difficult in a photo shoot means that he or she knows what they want. It is the best possible subject a keen portraitist could hope[1. Easier-to-deal-with subjects are mostly those who wears a thick mask to shield their truth.].

I would ask the same question every time my editors call for an [editorial] assignment: “What is the subject, and what is your story?” I’d learn over the years that less editors would call, but more interesting assignments were on the table. Those who continue to call usually are the ones who put their trust and also gave me editorial freedom to do whatever I want.

Steve would have to deal with me, given such case.

I can imagine what it would be like for the reputable Ed Kashi to be treated that way, but ask yourself this: is it even your story to tell, or our subject’s? I kept asking that question, repeatedly in between photo shoots, albeit a car, people, a room or a building, and the answers always came back strong: I am just an observer to all of this, a clear piece of glass to the window that frames the story to our audiences.

It is when I kept my ego at bay that I begin to see the truth. It is only when I step back from the frame that I see who people truly are, the mask people are wearing, the goals and ambitions they want to achieve, and the real truth beyond all the mask and their ego-ridden self.

There is nothing more important, more interesting, or more powerful and more joyful than a truthful story.

And that’s why, I think Steve didn’t treat Albert Watson like he did Ed Kashi[2. Quoted passages are (re)paraphrased for context, as the originals are edited with commentaries by the original author of the post]:

“The one thing I insisted on was that we have a three hour window of set up time. We were prepared…we set up to make [every shoot] as greased lightning fast as possible for the [subject]. I also read a massive amount of stuff about Jobs to help conceptualize the shoot, and to be able to converse with Jobs intelligently. When Steve walked in, his power, charisma and genius were palpable. It was like when Clint Eastwood walks in to the room: “Wow, you’re shooting film.” “I don’t feel like digital is quite here yet.” “I agree.” Steve said, then he turned to Watson and added, “But we’ll get there”

It was 2008, and Steve may have grown to be more careful with his remarks, but it was clear that they both had an equally respectful stand to each other, an understanding that made the sessions enjoyable and fluid:

What do you want me to do?” asked Steve.

“Think about the next project you have on the table, think about instances where people would challenge you” replied Watson.

The session went longer than Steve ever gave to most photographers, and the chosen photograph became the witness to the connection between Steve and Watson, and it portrayed the persona that obviously Steve and people around him at Apple knows as he is, the truth beyond all public image that people would render, the final picture to mark an end of an era, the one picture that would be the lasting memory of Steve and his story.