Geoff Reis was his name, and he had this photograph taken shortly after the captain announced that the Titanic had struck an iceberg. While everyone else was fighting for a few square inches of lifeboat, or wondering why they were born poor*, Geoff had his personal portraitist (always on retainer) set up this photo shoot.
There's no denying that it's a beautiful shot, but when you know the story behind it you can't help but experience a little wishful thinking. For one, the still image captures none of the manic thrusting described in the photographer's notes, and the pitching of the crippled vessel (the boat, I mean) disrupted the tableau moments before the shot was taken. Apparently, a mannequin dressed to resemble Nellie Taft was only inches outside the frame at this point, skidding away on the tilting deck. But that's the ballet of history, eh?
It should be mentioned, too, that Mr. Reis survived "the ship thing" by eventually fleeing to his private dinghy, losing nothing more than his photographer's legs below the knees. (Cold water was the final straw, certainly, but poor circulation was the real culprit.)
*Honestly, I really don't know much about the Titanic situation beyond the sexy photography. I did see the film several years ago, and I gathered that many of the poor people traveled in some sort of submarine towed behind the main vessel. I assume they were dragged to the bottom with the furniture and propellers and... other boat things?