Coburn was introduced to photography by his distant cousin F. Holland Day and was so talented and precocious a photographer that he soon gave instruction on platinum printing to Day himself. He traveled to London and Paris with Day to assist with the 1900–1901 exhibition "The New School of American Photography" and there met Edward Steichen, Frederick Evans, Frank Eugene, and other photographers. In 1907, the year he had a one-man show at Stieglitz’s gallery, Coburn was invited by the American art collector Charles Lang Freer to photograph his collection of Asian art and prints by Whistler. That exposure to Japanese art and Japonism is evident in this portrait of Elsie "Toodles" Thomas dressed in a kimono and looking like a figure in a ukiyo-e print. Thomas is shown blowing a quivering bubble, a longstanding symbol of the transient nature of life frequently used by Pictorialist photographers.