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.