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February 14, 2017

Story Behind Steve Jobs 1984 Photos by Norman Seeff

Norman Seeff has photographed some of the greatest legends of our time. One of my favorites was Steve Jobs. Seeff was able to photograph Steve both in the work environment with the Apple team, but also in Steve’s home.

The story behind these 1984 photographs were shared by Ray Basile, who hung out in Norman Seeff's Laurel Canyon studio as a teenager and now writes a blog called iPhone Savior, has posted a long interview with the South African photographer whose portrait of Steve Jobs ended up on the cover of Time Magazine.

An image of Steve Jobs in his living room in Woodside, Ca., February 1984.Photograph by Norman Seeff.

Norman recalled how he flew to Apple headquarters in 1984, tasked with shooting the Macintosh design team.

"I decided to start with the team rather than Steve right out. They were like a commune, very different than what you'd expect in a corporation. There was a tremendous sense of family, a tremendous sense of shared innovative thinking that seemed to be future oriented." said Seeff.

"I got all of these people together in the room and I could see Steve in the background. You could see him thinking 'this looks like fun - I wanna play'. Every now and again he'd sneak into the room and he'd kind of glom on - if I was shooting 20 people together he'd run in and he wouldn't stand in the middle – rather he'd put his arm around someone on the edge and in that way, I was able to get a shot of him with the group."

"I wanted to get a sense of him," Seeff said referring to Jobs. "What I got is that he wasn't trying to be controlling with me. Instead, he looked like this kid who wanted to play, you know - like ‘you guys are having fun what about me?’"

Norman recalled informing Jobs that he wanted to shoot some individual shots with him after finishing with the team. He suggested shooting at Jobs' home.

"We drove over to his house and we sat in that large unfurnished living room and we were just in conversation. My fundamental approach is not to try and take photographs, but to create an authentic, honest relationship so that they forget that the camera is even there." said Seeff.

"He was so inspired in that moment and said ‘I'll be right back’ and he ran out of the room and he came running back in with the new Mac and he just plopped on the floor."

"So we didn't think of an idea, we just had a moment. What was encapsulated in that box was his baby. Now if we had conceptualized it and said ‘let's put you in a lotus position so that you look like a guru and let's put the Mac on your lap and let me get the right angle and now look at me’ — but none of that happened."

"He walked in and he fell into that place in one second and I got the shot, it was that easy. I didn't tell him what to do, he just did it. There isn't any other process that works unless it's collaborative, that's the foundation of working with innovative people - you don't ‘do it’ to anybody — you participate with them."

"That's why I want to make the distinction - this was not a concept, this was a spontaneous moment that he just went clunk - there he was and I just went flash — got it!" Norman added.

Several other images of Jobs captured during that same session include one where he looks very relaxed with a beer bottle at his side, another shows him with his hands over his face, there’s a shot with Bill Atkinson and one that Norman recalls where Steve begins performing yoga exercises.

Steve Jobs, Bill Atkinson, and the 1984 Macintosh

(Photos © Norman Seeff)


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