In 1979 the Polaroid Corporation invited Andy Warhol to make portraits in its Cambridge, Massachusetts, studio, where the prototype of a new 20 x 24-inch camera that weighed eight hundred pounds and could produce color photographs in sixty seconds had been set up. The bulky apparatus could not easily be moved for compositional changes; it had to remain stationary while the subject was arranged. Then, when all was ready, Polaroid's technician was on hand to operate it. In spite of these restrictions, Warhol seems to have had fun making more than ten portraits–most of them self-portraits.
Warhol made four extreme close-up self-portraits with the new camera in a single day, including this one. He seems to have quickly understood that he had to get very close to the enormous camera, to confront it almost, thus making a larger-than-life-size portrait that exploited the camera's unusual potential. He gazed upward and away from the lens, leaving the left side of his face in deep shadow. These elements emphasize and abstract the simple highlighted lines of his face.