Other subjects photographed in this fashion included the Duchess of Windsor, Noel Coward, Truman Capote and Spencer Tracy (the Tracy shot is used on the cover of James Curtis' new biography on the actor).
To Penn, this set-up was "a means of closing people in. Some people felt secure in this spot, some felt trapped. Their reaction made them quickly available to the camera," according to photo-seminars.com.
Whatever Penn's motivations may have been, Dietrich was not pleased with the result and refused the release of photos from this session -- although "Mutti" privately gave a print to her husband as a Christmas gift that year.
Christie's also auctioned some alternate shots from this shoot in April 2011 (right).
Shots from an previous shoot by Penn (also in 1948), have been widely published: