1984: Steve Jobs: unseen images by Norman Seeff

The iconic image of Steve Jobs in the lotus position with a Mac on his lap was taken by Norman Seeff.  Norman is a fan of Retronaut and sent us these out-takes, plus his account of the shoot.  Images 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are exclusive to Retronaut and are here released for the first time.

To buy one of the few remaining lithographs of the “Lotus” image, visit Norman’s Art For All studio site.

“When I work with artists and innovators, I focus specifically on the artistry and mastery of their creativity. It is in these particular arenas that these highly consummate people are functioning with a level of responsibility, discipline, courage perseverance and conviction. Sometimes, these skill sets are not applied in other areas of their lives and it is as though there is a ‘pocket of excellence’ where somehow, they are functioning at the higher reaches of their potential.

“I was aware of the character flaws that people have described about Steve. For me however, my interaction with him revealed none of these views, although I don’t doubt the anecdotal stories about his impatience and qualities of dictatorial control. What I did discover, and this is true with other artists, that once they trust you, that level of control tends to fall away.

“I began the session by shooting the Mac team at the Apple offices and I could see Steve lurking in the background. It was clear that he was checking out how things were going. We were having tremendous fun and I was getting a lot of spontaneous and joyful shots. I guess Steve was feeling really good about this, otherwise he would not have invited me to his home

“The foundation of my approach, which developed over many years, was to develop a relationship and emotional intimacy with the artist by being willing to reveal myself at the outset. My desire with Steve was to engage in a genuine conversation about the world in which he lived and where he was most comfortable, and of course that came down to ideas about the future and where technology could go. These kinds of conversations are not at all heady and definitely require a balance of just having fun and hanging out together. That’s exactly what I was doing with Steve and as the session progressed, he became more and more informal. I never fixate on a shot. It’s always about a spontaneous unfolding experience. I discovered early on in my own process that if I aimed for a particular outcome or goal, the emotional authenticity was lost. Perhaps I could be called an experimentalist – creating an experience that I then document on a roll of film.

“As I was working with Steve, I was watching him become more and more comfortable until I felt as though I’m hanging out with a big adolescent in his pad. Every shot is a one-time moment and then the next one happens spontaneously so I ended up with hundreds of shots that document a chronological sequence of events from the time I arrived to when I was able to say “we got it, we’re done.”

“The well-known shot of Steve sitting in lotus position with the Mac on his lap was a totally spontaneous experience. By the time the session was over, he was sitting on the floor with his shoes off and he showed me how he could put his leg over his head – a truly yogic display of flexibility. Later on I captured a shot of him wiggling his toes with an impish look on his face in the background – informal images which are in such contrast to the stature of what he was to become in his not too distant future.

“Steve was truly a visionary. Being a visionary is an intuitive faculty of being able to see beyond the current horizons of possibility. It is a powerful reflection of imagination not constrained by everyday boundaries. He was extraordinarily impatient with people who said “it couldn’t be done”. That was where some of his purported dictatorial unreasonableness would come from but in the end, he got what he wanted and everyone discovered that what seemed impossible could be done. Steve made the impossible possible.”
- Norman Seeff

Thank you to Leah Lehrer, Charles Hannah and Norman Seeff

15 Responses

  1. Ken

    Thanks for posting these images. I’ve long been a fan of Seeff’s work, his photos have a warmth and quality that’s sadly lacking in most of the other “name” photographers.

  2. Valentin Mandache

    A truly great man, whose sensibility, humanness and genius are so well reflected by these wonderful photographs. Thanks for publishing them! Valentin

  3. Chris Crawford

    Great job, Norman!

    It always amazes me how often I see your name pop up attached to images that I’ve known so well.

  4. John

    Is Jobs in the picture with the human pyramid and the baby? If so where? I can’t find him.

    • matt

      according to a quote from Steve Jobs, Woz stopped working in 1978, after the wild success of their Apple II. he wasnt interested in big corporations and was enjoying the fruit of his labors. the driving project people behind the Mac project were Jef Raskin and later Steve Jobs.

  5. Melvin Jose

    Steve is as inspirational as second life to me and a few others i know! Steve still lives on and we’ll see another “Blue Box” soon to start it all over again :-) Thank you very much for posting these images Mr. Seef and obviously i love the font style!

  6. Eileen

    Player_16: Just a friendly correction: the ‘bloke with a beard’ is actually Steve Capps, not Woz. I know this because I worked with this group as an Area Associate (administrator) for 6 months beginning in Oct. of 1984.
    Norman Seeff-I so enjoyed these incredible images. Thank you for sharing them and taking me on a trip down memory lane!

  7. Modernaire

    Second to the last photo makes a stunning desktop picture.

    Mr. Seeff, did you also take nighttime photos of Steve at home as well? In color? There is this one photo of Steve at his house, crossed legged on the floor underneath the warm glow of a large lamp and large flat loudspeakers behind him, a turntable on the floor.

    I would love to see HiRez outtakes of that photo session if was something you photographed.

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photographs!

  8. Dave

    Interesting photos, thanks for sharing, and also important, thanks for acknowledging/crediting the photographer. As an advanced amateur then pro photojournalist, I’ve enjoyed Mr. Seeff’s work for many years.

    IMHO way too often art online is not credited at all, but words are much more frequently credited, reflecting the bias that writing is harder than photography or graphic arts.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an html tag for crediting artwork!



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