Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879–1973)
Gum bichromate over platinum print
20 5/16 x 16 3/16 in. (51.6 x 41.1 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.55.167)
Steichen's famous portrait session with J. P. Morgan was initiated at the request of the German painter Fedor Encke, who sought the assistance of a photographer to minimize the sitting time required of his busy subject. After photographing Morgan in the pose requested by the painter, Steichen was permitted to make a second negative for himself, one that showed an intense and assertive Morgan, provoked by the photographer's posing instructions to reveal more personality than he intended. "When he sat in the pose he habitually took for the painter, all I saw was the map of his face, blank and lifeless," wrote Steichen years later. "But when he was irritated, even by a trifle, something touched the quick of his personality and he reacted swiftly and decisively . . . I saw that a dynamic self-assertion had taken place, whatever its cause, and I quickly made the second exposure." When later shown proofs of the two images, Morgan ordered a dozen copies of the first and ripped up the second, the image that would eventually become the iconic portrait of the banker. Despite (or because of) Morgan's initial hostile response, Steichen labored long to make a perfect print for presentation to Stieglitz, one that Morgan himself eventually came to covet. Stieglitz exhibited it so much that it began to fade, and Steichen replaced it with this print in 1910.