Nadar made numerous self-portraits, which allowed him to experiment with poses and gestures before turning the camera on his illustrious subjects. The writer Charles Baudelaire's homage, "Nadar, the most astonishing expression of vitality," applies easily to the intense young man gazing coyly but self-assuredly at a point just above the lens of his own camera.
Perhaps Nadar was merely looking at an assistant helping to make the exposure, but he clearly intended to project an image of himself as the intense, Romantic artist. His left hand braces his body against the chair, while his right hand, cradling his chin and holding up his head, echoes the gesture of his left to create pictorial balance.
This photograph was taken at mid-career; Nadar was already a celebrated writer, caricaturist, and portrait photographer. He was thus free to play with self-representation, exploring the many personas that made up a complex and talented man.