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.