Platon Proves that Speech Moves
Power is derived from communication. A well-constructed sentiment or phrase can be all that’s needed to win or lose an election, inspire or deflate a movement, encourage a child or depress a life. There’s power to speech. It moves people, and when brandished by the hands of a skilled orator can move the audience wherever speaker wants them to go. That’s powerful and should be wielded with respect, with responsibility. Few are as understanding of this than Platon, a photographer and a communicator who is not only on the roster at B&A but also with the Washington Speakers Bureau, and leader in the movement #SpeechMoves. To celebrate the launch of this movement, Platon, Great Bowery Films, and WSB worked together to create a video featuring James Comey, Madeline Albright, Caitlyn Jenner, and like Sugar Ray Leonard and Tony Blair.
“I believe in the power of humanity. I believe in the power of speech,” Platon says, kicking off the video that explores the forms that power can come in. Empowerment, inspiration, validation. But more than a launch, it is an invitation. Social Media has granted a platform to everyone with an internet connection, but part of the anonymity of social media is that words lose their integrity when tossed into the world without a face behind them. #SpeechMoves invites participants to share what moves them, with their face and name. It’s the beginning of a meaningful conversation about the power of speech, and each submission is rich with humanity.
Platon and Fiverr Want You to Get to Work
New Year, New You, right? 2018 is going to be your year, right?
Don’t just say it: Do it.
That’s the message behind the latest campaign from Fiverr and DCX, photographed by Platon. It’s not enough to have good ideas or dreams as high as the sun: our world only rewards those who do. So, you better do. Platon and Fiverr want to make sure you’re one of those people that does.
This isn’t the first time that Platon teamed up with the freelancer marketplace that connects independent creators with entrepreneurs to collaborate. Last year was the first iteration of the “Doers” Campaign, and this year it’s expanded, not only in representation, but in inspiration as well. This year it’s all about inspiring the entrepreneur inside all of us. The campaign is bundled with the “Year of Doing” initiative that invites creatives the world over to make their goals public on Fiverr’s website and offers tools to help make those goals more attainable.
Provocative copy like “Actually, It Hasn’t All Been Done Before,” and “It’s Not the Thought That Counts” is paired with Platon’s portraits, connecting the word to the faces of those who use Fiverr. It reminds us that these services are about people, they’re about bringing together communities and creators. They’re about doing it this year.
Platon’s imagery challenges us to chase that dream, and make good those ideas that live inside each of us. As always, the campaign is no BS, reminding us that no one cares if you thought of an idea first and meetings should be about work and not about vanity.
So, get out there and get it done!
Platon Sees a Hero in Stephen Hawking for Wired UK
Stephen Hawking lives at the juncture of flesh and technology, both because his entire career as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist has been about exploring the limits of the human condition, but also because it is through a complex series of technologies that he remains alive and communicating. ALS has stolen most movement from him, relegating him to a motorized wheelchair, and allowing him the usage of only a single cheek muscle to manipulate a communication system. The 76-year-old scientist was the subject of Wired UK’s 100th issue cover, and SAT with Platon for the photograph.
Platon met Hawking at his personal office at the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge University, England. “The professor was brought in by a team of medical nurses and a technical adviser. I was asked to leave the room so they could have some privacy to prepare him for my sitting - and prepared he was,” explains Platon. “He has a powerful presence. Silent. Motionless. Yet, 200% alive. This man radiates charisma - his eyes burn with fire.” Those of us who aren’t in contact with Hawking on a daily basis, and are isolated from the differently abled among us, often lower our expectation of life signs from those who experience life differently from how we do. That’s a mistake. As Platon’s experience and images prove, just because we can’t empathize with an experience, or see the expression of it, doesn’t mean it’s not as rich and full as our own.
Hawking’s limitations in his chair could potentially also limit his ability to express himself in other ways – like fashion – but he was on point for his session with Platon. “He rocked a dapper tweed jacket with a silk cravat, which elegantly covered up all the plastic tubes entering his fragile body,” says Platon. “He was engulfed by a mechanical throne-like wheel chair, in my opinion it only added to this man’s stature.” He even donned a pair of sunglasses at one point in response to the photography lights, and upon doing so adopted what Platon calls “rock star swagger,” making him into a kind of “a badass super hero.”
We must all constantly reshape how we think of achievement and contributions, and what they look like. Even as Hawking ages and his body betrays him, his work becomes ever more relevant and we must continue to listen to this living icon.
Platon and Lavazza Ask: What Are You Doing to Better the World?
The Lavazza calendar is one of the most prestigious photography assignments in the world. It demands the highest mastery of craft and creativity to create beautiful and provocative images. Platon was an obvious choice. In past years Joey L. and Erwin Olaf have both photographed for the calendar, as well as Annie Leibovitz, Steve McCurry, Martin Schoelle, and David LaChapelle. For 2018, Lavazza invited Platon to photograph the calendar, but because it’s Platon he had to do things a little differently. Each year Lavazza’s calendar becomes increasingly more globally aware, and for 2018 Platon and the Italian coffee giant brought it to the next level. Platon took the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for making the world a better place by 2030, and photographed an activist, group, or leader who encapsulates each of those goals. Because these goals go beyond time or a neat schedule, there are 17 photographs instead of the traditional 12 to remind us that it’s always time to better the world.
“I have been invited by Lavazza to celebrate a group of champions and all of these amazing people that I had the privilege to work with on this project delivered incredible messages for us,” says Platon. “I tried to capture their majesty, their magic, their power.”
Traditionally, the Lavazza calendar is rich in color and sumptuous imagery, but this year Platon made the images about portraiture and telling the story of these incredible figures. He wanted to connect us with each of the 17 SDGs and take inspiration from their stories. A-list celebrities like Jeremy Renner and Andre Agassi are mixed in with names you may recognize like Alexandra Cousteau, and those whose stories you’ll learn for the first time. Many wear teeshirts, and each is presented like we could engage with them immediately. There’s a good reason for that. “Muhammad Ali once told me you have to help people see themselves in a story. If you can get people to see themselves in the stories that you put forward then you can achieve greatness. And what I present to you is a new set of heroes,” says Platon. “There’s energy here, there’s passion here, there’s no negativity, there’s no accusations. This is a positive revolution. These are heroes.”
The yearlong calendar is up and running, with all the stories available to view right now. Click through, learn what you can from each of these heroes, take inspiration, and maybe apply what you learn to your own life, your own goals. The name of the calendar is practically an indictment itself: “2030: What Are You Doing?” Ask yourself this question, and we’ll move forward together.
“We live in a time of great connectivity, what this project represents is that magical thing called a shared experience. Where we celebrate our unique and beautiful differences. It’s about coming together to solve common goals,” says Platon. “The next generation is in this project and we want you to be with us.”
Read more about what Platon's goals at Lavazza.
Platon Dresses Up Power for Garage Magazine
Platon is always creating new work. His studio is a flurry of activity, with every moment scheduled to the minute. This way of working is done to ensure that he spends his time the way he wants to and the way he needs to. Each year he tries to fit in at least one big fashion story – bigger than what we normally see in the industry – because as a photographer who has mastered fashion work he can use the medium to have a significant impact. This year he teamed up with Garage Magazine for their 13th Issue on a story called ‘Power Dressing.’
“It was our tribute to power and authority and we were looking at how we use fashion to express a self-expression, particularly with power,” says Platon. “And I didn’t want to just treat it as a surface based style project, this was very much calling on the younger generation to think again about their own moral compass and their own responsibility.” Unlike a typical fashion story that would usually take just a week, ‘Power Dressing’ commanded Platon’s schedule for months because the message is worth it. All the models are styled by Pheobe Arnold in the most cutting edge, high end fashion, but all of it is inspired by power – cultural, political, historical. But there are hard lines between them, lines Platon wants to disappear.
RuPaul tells us, “You’re born naked, the rest is drag,” underscoring that all fashion is costuming. We dress to identify ourselves, to identify with others, and to place ourselves in the world and in history. It is this exact notion that Platon seeks to disrupt with ‘Power Dressing.’ “We have become more tribal than we ever were in history and ironically social media was supposed to build bridges and help us communicate more and I believe it’s done the reverse,” Platon explains. “Before, tribalism always existed especially with style and self expression that’s how you had subculture and it was always the way youth would express themselves but now this idea of tribalism has gone way beyond that idea of self expression and it’s become it’s choking society at large. And I think it’s important now to start to challenge this idea of tribalism.”
So how do we do that?
Platon says we must enlist cultural leaders into the fight. Most of them have become leaders as a result of the powers that maintain the lines between tribes, but if they’ll take on the fight their voices are ever more powerful.
“These models are leaders in culture, and they have huge followings. With that position of authority comes responsibility. You can’t be a leader even if it’s a cultural leader without carrying a sense of responsibility,” Platon explains. “Winston Churchill always said, ‘True greatness comes with a cost and the cost is responsibility.’ So I then turned to all these fantastic young models as cultural leaders of their time and I told them that we were going to work together to provoke respectful debate and they must to use their authority and their position and their influence in society to help people think again about this tribalism. And they all stepped up to the cause.”
It’s not lost on Platon that by photographing the representations of the tribal groups, in a way he’s perpetuating them. We must diagnose the issue before we can heal it. He has photographed more than 60 world leaders in his time, many sitting on the same apple box that Lineisy Montero sat in for this story, and too few of those leaders were women. There’s a sickness in our culture where democracies do not elect a representative ratio of women – so showing women as leaders in these groups, right before they tear them down, is a part of the disinfection. “This was a photo essay about women’s empowerment first and foremost, but it was also a sign to help everyone recognize that each picture almost represents a tribe and either we choose to stay in that tribe or we choose to destroy intolerance and destroy the barriers that exist between us,” Platon says. “And maybe I would like this to be the last time these tribes were ever seen.”
Take a last look for yourself in the latest issue of Garage Magazine.
Platon in the Congo: Faces of Horror, Faces of Hope
"I’m not really a photographer at all," Platon tells us at the beginning of an episode of Netflix's Abstract that follows his process and career as a photographer. "The camera is nothing more than a tool. Communication. Simplicity. Shapes on a page. What’s important is the story, the message, the feeling, the connection. How do you make this reach people? It’s a combination of graphic simplicity and the power of spirit and soul." Platon never had a plan of getting in front of a camera to tell his own story but when he saw the opportunity of being in front of 90million viewers, he knew he could use it to tell a different story. That story is the story of Dr Denis Mukwege, a man in the Democratic Republic of Congo who has made his life's work the health of women who have been sexually assaulted. He was the focus of a story Platon photographed for Time Magazine, a trip that Platon brought Netflix along for.
"Rape has almost always been a part of armed conflict, but in Congo’s civil wars, it was a strategy," the Time Magazine feature story, penned by Aryn Baker tells us. When Platon was preparing his team for the delicate and challenging work ahead of them, he put it slightly differently: "Rape is cheaper than bullets." And that's why these women found themselves at Panzi Hospital, the center in Bukavu where Mukwege does his work.
“I went there expecting to be traumatized,” Platon told Time Magazine. “Instead I found incredible stories of courage.”
The circumstances that brings patients are each more horrific than the last, where sexually based crimes are not limited to adults, or even children, but extends to family members and even infants. The combination of reasons that permit these crimes to continue is cultural and systemic and until law enforcement in the Congo is able to enforce any real punishment, it will continue. Until that happens the leadership must come from the survivors themselves.
"I never expected to find this joy and strength at Panzi. I went expecting to see broken people, and I did, but what I also saw is that people can overcome that,” Platon tells Time. “The women I photographed are the most inspiring people I have ever met in my life. I started to focus on their courage and heroism, and the idea of overcoming adversity.”
Platon Gets In There with Trevor Noah
When Jon Stewart retired from The Daily Show no one knew who would be capable of replacing him. Whoever it would be would have a big job in front of them, and there was more than a little bit of shock when Comedy Central named Trevor Noah. All attention immediately focused on the little known South African comedian, and a deluge of scrutiny hit his first couple weeks as host like more than a ton of bricks. But now, a year and a half after taking over the desk he’s finding his stride, earning him the cover of Time Magazine. The publication brought on Platon to capture a portrait of a man who has become one of the most consequential voices in the political media. But even though Noah’s job is talking to millions of Americans every day, the shoot was markedly different from that experience. “It was one of the quietest shoots I’ve ever had. It’s the most intense shoot he’s ever been in, that’s for sure,” says Platon. “He was not expecting me to just tear down walls that fast and just get in there.”
But Platon did get in there, as he always does.
Platon’s whole process is to remove the masks of polite society we cover ourselves with, and some performers have masks that are much thicker and more carefully constructed than most other people. But all Platon had to do was remind Noah of his crucial role in this cultural moment. “He finds himself as one of the emerging leaders in society,” Platon explains. “He finds himself as one of the cultural provocateurs, as I am. And this is not a picture of him in a magazine this is a moment, a tipping point in his life and his career when he realizes that what he has is a platform and he now has to use that platform not just to comment on current history but actually drive it. And so that took over our shoot.” Sometimes gravity sucks the sound out the room, and little needs to be said. These two men were quiet as they explored the meaning behind these moments and simply presented the reality of them.
When Jon Stewart was in the chair he used to jokingly beg Donald Trump to run for President because, as a comedian, Stewart wanted to lampoon the man. But time worked out that Noah was behind the desk for the election, catapulting him into a unique moment while learning a job that is already a monumental task in the best of times. But even if it’s not the perfect circumstances, we all live in the times that we live in, and the question is how to do the best job with what we have. “It’s that feeling that we all need to be useful now,” says Platon. “You’ve got to find the human condition to bring people willingly into the center, not by lecturing or guilt tripping them but by letting them feel that they are at stake in this story, we’re all at stake in this story, no matter what we believe in politics.”
Platon Finds A Necessarily Soft Chuck Schumer for Time
We are scarcely four weeks into a new presidency and our political climate has never been more explosive. President Trump, it should be noted, is quite popular with his base, but the opposition is also very loud forcing every member of congress to engage in ways that are almost unprecedented. But no one expected this to happen, least of all Chuck Schumer. Schumer was expecting to be the Majority Leader in the Senate and handily help a President Clinton. But that didn't happen. Instead he's found himself with a totally different job, as he explained to Platon when they sat together for the latest cover of TIME Magazine. "I should have been in a Really powerful position and I should have been in a place where I'm having a lot more fun but history didn't work out like that," Schumer said to Platon. "Now I find myself as Trump's opponent and this is a much more important position of responsibility to have." Not only has this new position changed expectations, Schumer is changing our understanding of how we should see an opposition figure.
The images that came out of this conversation between Platon and Schumer aren't what you would expect from a man who is taking Trump head on, but there's a reason for that. "I've worked with Trump and I've worked with Schumer now so I understand both their spirits," Platon says. "What you have are two street fighters from New York and they get each other. Most politicians don't get Trump, they just don't really understand his madness. They can't understand that this insanity right now is a storm that Trump consciously makes but Chuck Schumer is probably the only guy who understands that because he's from New York too." As Platon explains it, Chuck knows that if he hits Trump, Trump will hit him back twice as hard. Instead, Schumer needs a different strategy if he wants to win.
"This is rough and tumble stuff," Platon says. But as rough and tumble as it is, the images that Platon got of Schumer are remarkably gentle, almost professorial. This is not what we would expect from a man taking on what some describe as the biggest bully in the world.
"Chuck is also a tough guy but he is also a big softy. And I see him as a leader, hopefully. We'll see. You never know," Platon warns. "But hopefully he represents a compassionate leader. A leader who thinks of himself as a servant of the people rather than a power broker only... Yes [being a leader is] about power. It's about charisma, seduction, authority, sometimes even intimidation, but a great leader also has to be compassionate and had to think of him or herself as a servant of the people." Platon has travelled all over the world for decades photographing the most powerful people in the world. People who have changed the course of history over and over. Some for better, some for worse. But Platon knows what power looks like, and sees the potential for something valuable in Schumer. Platon sees him as well equipped for this fight.
The other aspect we in Platon's photograph is the humanity behind Schumer. In our polarized political climate that's often missing. Photographers and editors want to use creative spaces to underscore a characteristic to serve a narrative. We've seen that a lot in recent days. But that is counter to Platon's entire career and philosophy. "I don't believe in gotcha journalism and I don't believe in just trying to show the facade of someone in a very bad way. I'm trying to cut through the facade and find out who this person really is," explains Platon. "With Chuck you are in his spirit, in his soul in that picture and you're talking to him, you're feeling him. I think that's what we need right now in our photography on the covers of magazines; we've got to get in and find out who this person is." We must remember, that underneath everything, each polarizing figure is a human being and whether our aim is to uplift of defeat them, the journey to engaging them starts with our common humanity.
Platon Reveals All for Netflix's 'Abstract'
Since Platon joined the family at B&A we’ve done our best to offer a window into how he works, relating to his subjects and getting imagery unlike anyone else with a camera. But now you can see Platon on a whole new level. As of today, you are invited directly into Platon’s process thanks to a new Netflix series, ‘Abstract: The Art of Design.’ Eight episodes follow eight designers with deep dives into their process, including Platon as one of the subjects
You might not think of photography as a design process, but when an artist is operating at the same level as Platon the work is far more than just pressing the shutter on a camera. “When I started I wasn’t taking pictures I was doing drawings of old people in my village,” Platon says. “My father was a modernist so he would teach me Le Corbusier and strip it down to the core, be honest about your materials. If I’m transferring that to a portrait: don’t cover this up with façade, show it for what it is. It’s going to come through.” Platon’s earliest work with pencils and paper taught him how to design a feeling, and it was his father’s sensibilities that taught him to present what he found and nothing else. Once that’s all blended together into a discipline the result is Platon’s body of work.
Even with a new understanding of how Platon works, he didn’t let us into the process because he wanted to be in front of the camera. On the contrary, he didn’t want it to be about him at all. “I have no interest of me in front of the camera, I have no interest at all,” Platon says. “But where I do have an interest is can I leverage peoples’ interest in me as a storyteller to get other work out there. That’s the bit that excites me about this.” Netflix has a potential reach of 90 million, making it an incredible platform for Platon to spread the stories and messages that he works on every day. “Everything I do is about that. Amplification of the next Martin Luther King, the next Gandhi, the next Mandela. Who are they? And why aren’t we hearing their voices? Why are they getting lose in white noise? And how can I help them as a communicator?” Platon’s work brings those voices forward and Netflix is bringing his voice forward.
“This film is very personal. It talks about me growing up as an immigrant, me dealing with my disability of dyslexia, me dealing with getting attacked on the streets of London and getting put in hospital, and what that does to your personality,” Platon explains. “I’ve never done that with anybody else.” You can get that and more through not only Platon’s episode, but the whole series that exposes the threads of what makes creative minds work and how that translates into the reality around us.
Check for “Abstract: The Art of Design” on Netflix starting today. Platon’s episode is number seven. The rest of the episodes feature artists and designers such as Paula Scher, Christoph Neimann, Tinker Hatfield, Ralph Gilles, Bjarke Ingels, Ilse Crawford, and Es Devlin.
Platon Gets Up Close and Personal with Fiverr
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
We learned this first from the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, but the lesson is relearned every day by every entrepreneur and self-starter. It’s not enough to want something, you have to go out and get it. And that means taking action. Fiverr knows a little bit about this. Fiverr is a marketplace that connects freelancers with those who need their services, making it a go-to for anyone who’s starting something big but needs the smaller pieces in place first. “Thinking big is still just thinking” is splashed across one of the images from the brand’s latest campaign, all on top of photographs captured by Platon. Under the logo is the tagline “In doers we trust.” It’s a reminder that ideas are cheap, anyone can have ideas, but in our economy, in our world, nothing counts until you do what needs to be done. If anyone knows this it’s Platon.
Platon has made a career of photographing doers. His most recognizable images are of Presidents like Obama, Putin, and Clinton. But more than that, he’s photographed Civil Rights heroes, political agitators, and artists the world over.
Platon’s portraits make up one part of a multifaceted campaign that includes videos, lifestyle imagery, and more. Having Platon come in for portraits it’s a no brainer thanks to his honed skill of revealing the truth behind what makes his subjects function. Whether it’s finding the lion behind the empathetic eyes of Edward Snowden, or the renegade in the face of a freelancer, he can find it all and fit it in a single frame. We just have to be willing to see it and let him change our perception.
Platon Offers Sanctuary with New York Magazine
It’s impossible for us to know who the first immigrants to America were. If Africa was the cradle of life – and by all accounts it was – the first immigrants to this continent came over uncountable thousands of years ago, populating this land through tribes and unique cultures. Many of them are still here, while others have been lost. Immigration stalled, and started back up again in the late 1400s, and has only increased ever since. Other than the Native American tribes, the well-founded argument can be made, everyone here is an immigrant even when it’s not so obvious. One place it is more obvious than most is in New York City, and just last week New York Magazine celebrated that unique aspect of the city with a cover story photographed by Platon.
The story is actually less of a story and more of a portfolio created by Platon that shows the immigrants of New York City. Not all of them, to be sure – they’re uncountable – but a representation of them. There’s a practical yearbook showing off generations from a 1-month-old child of immigrants, to a 91-year-old naturalized citizen originally from Italy. These are the faces of the dreamers, the “illegals,” the undocumented, our neighbors, coworkers, friends, teachers – the people that make the lifeblood of this city, and who are the spiritual decedents of the founders of this country.
The very cover of the magazine displays a newborn citizen, whose mother is a Dreamer, and grandmother an undocumented immigrant. Each generation is added into the portrait, folded into the magazine as a trio of covers. “We were thinking about what would make a great story played out over three covers, and thought about the three generations of immigration,” explains Jody Quon, Photography Director of New York Magazine. “So you get the full arc of New York immigrants in the progression of the covers.”
This issue represents the 12th Edition of ‘Reasons to Love New York,’ naming the fact that New York has been named a “Sanctuary City” – a place where immigrants of all statuses are safe – as the biggest reason to love the city this year. If the common wisdom of 2016 has any truth to it, we’re facing a lot of change in 2017 in every community. The best, and truly the only way, we can face the coming future is with as much information and empathy that we can muster. This story is a vital piece of that collective education.
Out Now: B&A Journal 9
Bernstein & Andriulli is more than an international agency with some of the best agents in the world, we’re a home for artists. Our roster represents creative forces that we truly believe in and whose work we want to spread to every corner of the globe. These artists are incredible talents and incredible minds, and as much as we show off all the best projects that they work on sometimes you need to get a taste of it yourself. That’s why we introduced the B&A Journal.
Every few months we pick some of the best work that’s come out of the agency and feature it in a large format, printed journal for friends, fans, and clients to thumb through at their leisure and experience the work of these world class artists in an intimate and tangible way. This week we’re releasing B&A Journal 9, and we couldn’t be more excited.
In addition to a beautiful cover shot by Ben Rayner, and dedicated pages for dozens of our artists (featured here are Platon, Marco Grob, Stephen Wilkes, Rose Blake, Guillaume Lechat, We Are The Rhoads, Serial Cut, Shotopop, and Radio), we’ve also included a special insert with this edition that formally announces our Murals department that includes a roster of public artists that rivals the best in the game.
B&A Journal 9 should be hitting your mailbox very soon - and if you want to make sure you get a copy reach out! We’d love to hear from you.
Platon Breaks Through to Steven Spielberg for Wired
Steven Spielberg is one of the most recognizable and impactful living American figures. As someone who stands behind a camera, that’s an unprecedented accomplishment and one that wasn’t lost on Platon. When Wired approached the photographer to shoot Speilberg for their cover, he was meeting something of a hero. “We all grew up watching his movies,” says Platon. “We still watch them. I told him that not only had I grown up watching them, but as an English kid it was one of the first introductions to Americana that I had. So it helped focus my ideals of what I dreamed to do with my life.” Spielberg’s films have shaped so much of modern American storytelling, and have changed the way that all storytellers tell their stories. Platon tells his stories visually, and as he rewatches all of Spielberg’s movies with his own children he's noticing again how impactful they have been for him.
Spielberg is not his movies, they’re an expression of him, but when Platon sees Spielberg he sees that legacy. That legacy runs parallel to figures like Bruce Springsteen and James Dean. Showing that was crucial to Platon’s vision. “I wanted to show that there’s this gritty, cool swagger that he actually has through his movies, and it’s not normally seen in portraits of him,” Platon says. “A lot of photographers are often intimidated by this man’s stature. He’s not an intimidating guy at all, but when you photograph Spielberg you could arguably say that he’s the most successful film director ever. So I think people often don’t have the confidence to get in there and connect with him on a human level and break through the brand.” The challenge that these other photographers is confronting is how to break through that brand, but because of Platon’s experience as a photographer he knows exactly how to do it. He did it with Vladimir Putin. He did it with Bill Clinton. He did it with Muammar Gaddafi. Platon knows how to break through.
So how does he do it? “I speak to people on the level, on a human level. Really the brand and the power: it doesn’t mean shit to me,” he says. Once you speak to a subject on their own level the artifice falls away. With Spielberg it took some effort. “I had to push him hard, but it was such an amazing connection we had and I found him to be dynamic, cool, this exciting personality that’s really humble, actually, but also still has the playful quality of a kid. And that’s what we tapped into,” Platon explains. “There was someone on set that said, ‘I’ve never heard anyone talk to him like that.’ I’m barking orders at him with excitement and they were just delighted and horrified at the same time. He loved it, we connected, we got it, we’re cool.”
Platon Meets Edward Snowden's "Snowbot"
The last time Platon connected with Edward Snowden it took the photographer a year to track him down. Through veritable international espionage they met the whistleblower in Moscow and it was the first time the world had seen Snowden since he went on the run. But the world has changed a little bit since then. Snowden now controls a fully operational robot, outfitted with cameras, microphones, and screens allowing him to go anywhere and interact with anyone. That robot rolled up to Platon’s door to get its portrait taken for the cover of New York Magazine, and once again just a door separated Platon and Snowden. “I opened the studio door and this robot comes in, wheels itself in with Snowden’s face on the front of it and it was just great to connect with him again,” says Platon. “He operates it all from his hideout in Moscow. He’s got a whole ground control. So it signifies something very interesting, which is as a man who is not free, now he has been liberated once again through technology.” Snowden has been in hiding since 2013 but now he’s able to get out again, at least in this small way.
In the world of photography, still life and portraiture are two very different disciplines and are approached differently. But this robot with an actual human face blurs the line between these two types of photography and Platon had to find the middle ground. “The robot is a very clinical thing and it has sort of implications, it reminded me of Hal in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ it also reminded me a bit of ‘1984,’” says Platon. “And yet there’s this moment of humanity coming through the computer screen… He was totally engaged with me once again, so it was a moment of deep human connection and it was also a moment of this clinical technology as well. It all fuses together.” Platon and Snowden fell right back into the relationship that they forged in Moscow more than a year ago, working together once again to find the honest image they were responsible for creating and sending out into the world.
Snowden finding a relative freedom through operating this machine begs questions that will be answered in the coming years. How does this change what freedom is? Can the authorities stop this? Who else will have access to these kinds of technology? And do we want them to? When tomorrow comes, we will see more and more like this and we’ll all have to figure out how we want to deal with it. For now, Platon got a glimpse of that future when Snowden’s “Snowbot” was leaving. “One of my neighbors came out to take the garbage out after the shoot and they saw the Snowbot leaving the studio and they raised their eyes as if ‘another crazy day in the life of Platon,’” he says, laughing. “But it was a really great closure that I had to go through the mill to find him. It took me a year. And then this time the pendulum swings and he comes to me.” The Snowbot represents a totally new way of thinking about criminality and freedom, but what that means for all of us has yet to be decided.
Platon's 'Service' at Milk Studios
When Platon began photographing Army recruits at the beginning of their training, his goal was to get a glimpse at what they go through. What he found was a meditation on loyalty and sacrifice. "I wanted to find out what happens when you're asked to do something and you do it - and it's very dangerous, and the sacrifices you make,” Platon explained to NPR. “This is where I learned about the other side of leadership, which is service." The resulting series, SERVICE, shows us what he found and teaches us how we should understand the 2% of Americans who uphold the mantle of this service.
What brought Platon to this project was his recognition of power structures in the world, and the vacuum that certain systems left open. Some of Platon’s most recognizable images are of powerful people like Putin, Clinton, and Gaddafi. But these people represent a very small piece of how we operate as a species. “I think at one point I had photographed maybe 160 or 170 of the world’s leaders,” Platon tells Milk. “I had seen up close and personal that sense of supremacy, but there’s another side of leadership, and that is service. To be a good leader, technically speaking, you are a servant of the people.” Platon wasn’t seeing that service in the broader media, so he took it upon himself to change that.
Platon spent years exploring these themes and following the lives of service members through their training and into their tours of duty, sometimes meeting their families after the service members didn’t come home. His new book acts as a compendium of the images he captured, but this week marks the opening of his show SERVICE on display at Milk Studios.
SERVICE is on view June 22 to July 24 at Milk Studios, 450 West 15th Street, on the ground floor. For Milk Studios’ full hours click here.
Platon will be available to answer your questions about his process and the SERVICE project this Thursday, June 23rd. He’ll be sitting with Elisabeth Biondi, the former Visuals Editor of The New Yorker. Come by Milk Studios at 450 West 15th Street, in New York City, 7-9pm. If you’d like to attend this talk please RSVP on the other side of this link.
To civilians war is hell. Guns and ammo. Fire and death. The slow march towards oblivion surrounded by the calls from the other side of existence, bathed in dirt and suffering. War is the stuff of nightmares for civilians. For soldiers these things are true too, but on the ground it's far more complicated. Relationships are forged in this crucible, the madness of life becomes simpler in a way, moments are distilled and objectives reveal themselves. In this struggle many find a way to serve, a direction to focus on, a path. When Platon began photographing Army recruits at the beginning of their training, his goal was to get a glimpse at what they go through. What he found was a meditation on loyalty and sacrifice. "I wanted to find out what happens when you're asked to do something and you do it - and it's very dangerous, and the sacrifices you make,” Platon explains to NPR. “This is where I learned about the other side of leadership, which is service." In his new book 'Service,' Platon delivers to us what he found and teaches us perhaps how we should understand the 2% of Americans who uphold the mantle of this service.
Platon started this project at a training center in California known as ‘Medina Wasl,’ photographing service members before they deployed to the Middle East. What he found there was harrowing, but even he didn't realize at the time that he was shooting a series of "before" images. It started at ‘The Suck,’ Medina Wasl’s nickname, but the stories started in these images would play themselves out unseen in the deserts and mountains of the Middle East, and many would find their way back to US soil and in front of Platon's camera again. "They were deployed. Then they come back and it's all different," Platon says. "So it became really human. It stopped being about the military and war, and turned into this human story that I never really expected it to be. I ended up taking pictures of love in the second half of the book."
For soldiers returning from duty, love is a complicated notion. They've returned from a place where IEDs are hidden everywhere and bullets slam into rocks and bodies without warning. In that place love is a part of life and death, the distance between the two written in a fog of dust and smoke. Survival is immediate and clear, leaning against their brothers, counting on them for their next breath. Their service is clear. But when they come back their path is less clear. That murky passage reveals itself almost immediately after the soldiers return from their deployment.
“I've done some emotional projects before, but not at this relentless pace, day after day,” Platon says. “The way I work is, I'm very subjective. I'm not the objective journalist who doesn't get involved. I'm not the ‘observer.’ How the hell can you be objective when you're in a widow's house and she's standing there in front of you and she's crying? You can't. You're in. You find yourself becoming part of the story in a weird way. The picture is a complete collaboration between me and the sitter. There's no stolen moment. It's a discussion – a visual lesson they are teaching.”
Remembering the Artist Known as Prince
Yesterday the world suffered the loss of one of our most beloved musicians, Prince. But more than a musician, Prince was an artist. By example he lead his fans and his community in the pursuit of personal truth, inspiring everyone he touched to follow the path that was their bravest.
Since Prince’s passing yesterday, the entire world has cried out. It has become a conversation of collective remembrance, paying homage and respect to an artist who touched so many. The artists at B&A are a part of that conversation and we’ve collected their work here. Some was created while Prince was still with us, like Platon’s photographs and Victor Gadino's digital painting that covered New York's Village Voice. While others have been created in response to his passing.
We will continue to collect our artists’ work here and encourage you to share your own. Prince’s legacy was to heighten the way we communicate with each other, we will all honor his memory by doing exactly that.
Rest in Peace.
Village Voice Cover by Victor Gadino.
Photographs by Platon.
Illustration by Stanley Chow.
Illustration by Mario Wagner.
The Cost of a Creative Life with Platon and Marc Jacobs
The recent news around Marc Jacobs has not been complicated. It’s been mostly a simplistic litany of bad behavior and post-mortems that are as shocking as they are strange. When Platon welcomed Jacobs to his studio to shoot the cover of The Fashion, The Guardian’s bi-annual fashion magazine, he wasn’t sure which version of Marc Jacobs was going to arrive. What he found was that every version of Marc Jacobs was revealed in front of Platon’s camera, and none of those versions were the bad boy the tabloids had been reporting on. “There’s moments of vulnerability, there’s moments of incredible confidence and style, and he’s really almost voguing,” says Platon. “I don’t think you can say that one picture sums him up. And it’s about a collection of pictures that helps describe the different sides to that process of being in the creative front line that I saw.” Platon was able to get a wide range of visual experience out of Jacobs because Jacobs was willing to be vulnerable in front of the camera. He is unapologetically himself, which is both the reason for and the result of his creative power. For Platon it was almost like viewing a live gallery of experience, but rather than seeing it as a charade Platon recognized it for what it was: the perpetual reshaping of a creative soul.
The seat of creativity is an authentic life and the willingness to share and experience the truth of living in this world. Throwing oneself into that fire is elective, and something that most people don’t do. “It’s a choice to stay somewhere in the middle of the dial. But if you dial it up you’re going to swing, and that’s just how life is. If you look at anyone in history who’s been a mover and shaker, it swings,” Platon explains. His examples range from Frank Sinatra to Bill Clinton to Miles Davis. Each of these figures has contributed an incredible amount to our world and have seen themselves slip to the extreme ends of what makes their contributions possible. But those slips are part of the deal. You can’t get one without the other. “You can’t say ‘If only he hadn’t done that.’ That is part of the process,” Platon says.
That changeability is inherent to a creative life. Living on the extremes is what makes it possible, and we cannot forget that fact when we examine these figures from the outside. “You’re at your best as a creative person but it’s also volatile,” Platon explains. “Often physically or emotionally, certainly intellectually as well, and if you’re going to be courageous enough to push yourself to those limits then there’s a lot at stake. It takes courage, and I recognize that in Marc Jacobs.” The recent news about the designer has been plagued with rumor and gossip about slips into drugs, and incredibly erratic behavior, but that’s not what Platon saw when Jacobs was in his studio. He saw the hints of what could be read inaccurately, but to Platon it’s just mistranslation. “There’s a cost and people don’t ever understand.”
“When you’re engaged in it, that moment of creativity at the highest level: it’s confusing. It’s a three dimensional experience. It’s not two dimensional that you can see,” says Platon. These creative giants don’t fit so easily into the world of polite expectations. But that’s how they’re able to push us further as a culture and contribute offerings that are truly new, truly fresh. “It’s all connected,” Platon says. “And I think Marc Jacobs has that.”
Everyone's Invited with Platon and Lincoln Financial
Platon has been photographing ads since his career began. His work has been used in all manner of campaigns selling a huge range of products, but as his career has developed he’s changed how he uses the power of advertising. He wants to use it to bring people together and Lincoln Financial agrees with him. Their latest collaboration is about building wealth and security as a family, but Platon used real families because he sees authenticity as a part of his accountability as a photographer. “It’s really valuable for us to understand the responsibility of creating the sense of ideal in advertising,” says Platon. “A lot of people just go for the idea of what we’re taught to aim for in society. That’s not necessarily right or fair or real.” Instead, Platon went for reality, bringing in a range of real families to act as his subjects. As important as the authenticity was the range of experiences they portrayed, more important today than ever before.
“At a time where we are faced with such division in society, it was very much a project about social inclusion,” says Platon about this campaign with Lincoln Financial. “So that was a joy to be able to promote a sense of love, compassion, and well-being within a family, and yet challenge the status quo of what is an acceptable family unit. It was great for an advertising campaign to acknowledge and celebrate that.” The families featured show different ages, races, sexual orientations, and compositions. “This is what you do for the people you love,” Lincoln Financial’s site reads. Love touches a family no matter what it looks like or who its constituent members are. It’s high time that companies are embracing the diversity of the heart, and Platon is doing what he can to help guide companies towards a more inclusive message. That is where they’ll find real power going forward.
When viewers see themselves in advertising, it seizes the aspirational power of advertising in a different way and offers affirmation instead. It brings the brand into the life of the audience and creates a message of inclusion. Platon knows this is critical to the successful pairing of brands with their customers. “We should be creating a new set of cultural heroes, people who don’t intimidate us with their fake perfection, but inspire us with their genuine love, compassion, and understanding, and respect for each other,” says Platon. “It’s better if you see yourself in the story rather than don’t recognize anything and you’re expected to purchase a product that will help you up the ladder to reach something that doesn’t even exist.” Advertising is about messaging, but the current cultural climate is ever more fatigued with a message that asks the audience to reach for the impossible. Platon’s work with Lincoln Financial shows us that what we’re doing is already right, and if we’re going to look for more it’s going to be with each other, not a false future. We are the heroes we’ve been waiting for.
Happy Holidays: 2015 in Review
As we come together with loved ones and friends to close the year, we’d like to take this time to reflect on some of our favorite moments from the last year. Included here is a list of some of our favorite stories we’ve had the pleasure to share with our community and friends. This year our artists helped usher in the next generation of Star Wars stars, discovered what bacteria lurk in NYC’s subways, sent hundreds of mean postcards to adoring fans, and put their own stamp on the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Our artists have done amazing things, so let’s take some time to remember some of the best stories from 2015 before turning our focus to the New Year.
We hope you have Wonderful Holidays, and a Happy New Year.
Weeks before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters, Marco Grob photographed the cast of the highly anticipated movie for Time Magazine. Not only did he get to photograph the human stars, he also got to spend time with the famous R2-D2 and meet the newest favorite: BB-8.
Riding the New York City subway can be a precarious situation, not because of the unpredictable riders but because of what lurks on the handrails. Craig Ward wanted to see what exactly he has holding onto every day and the answers were both beautiful and revolting.
Sawdust and Nike Reach New Heights
One project with international powerhouse Nike is celebration enough, but when Sawdust teamed up with the athletic juggernaut for three bespoke typefaces it was an honor. Not only were they creating these solutions for Nike, but they'd be paired with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant, three of the most powerful names in basketball. What they created turly elevated the game.
This year Joey L joined Annie Leibovitz, Erwin Olaf, and David LaChapelle as a photographer for Lavazza's annual calendar. With the theme “From Father to Son,” Joey L examined how the tradition of sustainable farming is passed on from generation to generation, and how food gets to our tables from around the world.
People's Sexiest Man Alive is always a hotly watched and eagerly awaited issue, and frequently their most popular. When Marc Hom got the call to photograph their non-traditional choice this year, David Beckham, it was an honor and a thrill. And on the day of the shoot, Beckham didn't disappoint.
For more than a decade Stephen Wilkes has been pursuing his ongoing personal project of condensing an entire day into a single photograph. This year, Stephen showed off some of his favorite shots at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, a great way to look back on all the work he's done, and look forward to what's still to come.
Over the course of months with locations stretching from The Costume Institute to the Louvre's vault, and even the private archive of Yves Saint Laurent, Platon captured the epic vastness of the Met's latest blockbuster. "China: Through the Looking Glass" examines how China's history has impacted the rest of the world through design influence, and Platon was able to photograph every step along the way.
Mr. Bingo's ongoing series "Hate Mail" pits the artist against those who pay for the pleasure of being berated by him through the post. Enough fans have gotten their kicks this way that he turned them all into a book that catalyzed an enormously successful Kickstarter. Books are available for purchase now!
Living a life in the limelight isn't always easy, so when We Are The Rhoads teamed up with Taylor Swift for their latest Keds campaign, they immediately found common ground. By creating a safe space the mega celebrity was able to focus on the moments with Sarah and Chris, resulting in images that are effortlessly Taylor.
Style is communication and a stylist has the power to shape how their subject communicates to the world. For Uzo Aduba's cover of As If Magazine, Stacey Jones dove into feminine luxury, offering the Emmy Award winning actress the opportunity to step away from the orange jumpsuits that her fans so often see her in.
Paris is a hotbed of fashion and style, making it a dream destination for many and attracting artists from all over the world. Tom Corbett is no different. On his latest assignment for Somerset he really sank his teeth into the city, taking advantage of every block and street corner, capturing the beauty of the city and the ease of its powerful energy.
It's hard to describe Donald Trump's political rise, so sometimes the best option is to not even try. When The New York Times Magazine tasked Stanley Chow and Jamie Chung with an image that spoke to the story they got right to work on something that felt honest but was also a lot of fun.
When Marcus Bleasdale began his work as a photojournalist it was to make a difference, but an artist can never be sure if their hopes are going to come to fruition. Marcus' has. His work with Human Rights Watch has lead to changes in law, and even helped end a war. Their joint gallery show, "Impact," proved it.
Chipotle has seen better days, but before their troubles they made a very solid decision when they asked Harriet Russell, Sarah J. Coleman, Adam Hayes, and Dave Homer to create illustrations for their bags and cups. Each illustrator was paired up with a writer whose pieces were to serve as the inspiration, and the results are as delicious as you can imagine.
Ken Fulk is a master at interior design, and Douglas Friedman is a master at photographing interiors. When the two came together in a show-stopping shoot of Elle Decor, Fulk's vision leapt off the page thanks to Douglas' unique ability to translate space into flawless photographic composition.
Bernie Sanders represents one of the most interesting political stories this season, and like any political character his whole persona is hard to distill into a single image (even a photograph!). Ryan McAmis took his time, and dug deeply into his bag of tricks, creating a portrait for the cover of National Journal that is as honest a representation as we've ever seen.
It's not every day that passion projects turn directly into corporate campaigns, but when UPS saw Brian Doben's "At Work" series they knew they needed it for themselves. Brian extended the project, meeting with read UPS customers that happened to run their own small businesses, to see what it's really like to work with a company that caters to their needs.
Cinemagraphs are becoming more and more popular, but Chloe Aftel was there since day one. In fact, she's sort of become a go-to photographer to create these captive moments that she finds particular expressive because of their ability to inject more emotion and more story.
Sometimes the best way to talk about serious issues is with a good laugh, so when Todd Selby linked up with Evolve on a series of gun safety PSA they imagined what other things kids get into. Whether it's playing with condoms like balloons, or tampons like Wolverine's claws: the kids will get into anything and, most of the time, it can be hilarious.
Few artists are as closely watched as Banksy whose work is discussed and devoured the world over, so when James Joyce got the call to be included in Banksy's latest installation it was a no-brainer. James' contributions ended up including the cover of Dismaland's catalogue, a piece that has now been distributed the world over and marked as a coveted accomplishment for any creative CV.
We cannot pretend we know what the future will hold, but if we had to bet we'd bet on Roof Studios' vision. They were tasked with glimpsing ahead for a spot with Toshiba that envisions how our relationship with technology will continue to deepen and grow, and shows us what that will look like.
Ice Skating GIF by Nomoco.