Platon Pushes Creative Language with Garage Magazine
Before Platon was shooting covers for Time Magazine and Wired, filling the pages of Vanity Fair, creating the book for the latest Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, or traveling to Kenya with Microsoft, he was a student studying the art of photography in a dark room. In those days he explored the edges of his craft to see where these challenges could take him. “When I was a student many years ago I used to experiment in the dark room by diffusing the image,” Platon tells it. “In the college café they used to deliver beer in plastic crates of polythene and I remember I used to steal the wrapping and stick it over the lens in the darkroom and it diffused the image and created this almost bleeding of tones into each other.” He was looking for a way to communicate ideas and messages through the visuals, by escaping literal story telling and making the images work for him. Decades later, as he continues to work on deeper and richer projects, he’s still trying to find the best way to communicate with his viewer. There’s always a better way.
Platon is in the middle of a new search for a better way. The challenge is always ongoing, but for his latest story with Garage Magazine called "On Vocation," a titanic collection of over 40 images, he was able to dive a little deeper. Charlotte Stockdale, the Fashion Director at Garage, has become an important collaborator for Platon: they push each other to do better, more provocative, more potent work. For Platon, it’s not about being in conversation with other photographers and reaching towards some obtuse idea of future photography insular to the industry. Instead, it’s about speaking to whoever picks up the images. “I’m focused on what I’m doing,” Platon explains. “I don’t see myself as part of a scene; I don’t see myself as a part of a period of time in photography. I think I used to. But as we get older we realize we’re all just individuals trying to do something… It’s about clarity of thought.”
In order to communicate the ideas that he and Charlotte wanted to put forward in this story, they played with focus and light in postproduction. Platon looked at the tools that digital photography currently has to offer and is exploring activating them in different ways to speak more directly. It’s like he’s back in school again. “After all these years I’m trying to find that roughness and that rawness with technology in the same principals,” Platon says. “I’m pretending there’s a lens on the easel in the darkroom and I’m diffusing it with that plastic polythene. I’m finding ways in Photoshop not to replicate it, but take that concept and push it a lot, lot further.”
The whole industry is always looking for ways to use technology to push their crafts further. But Platon warns that there are pitfalls that can easily derail what a creative person is doing. It’s important to remember that the programs we use are there for us to expand our work, not constrain it. Technology is a tool and it’s supposed to liberate you but the thing is it only liberates you when you have the idea in your head first,” Platon explains. “You have to ask, ‘What is the story, What’s the content, What’s my message, and What is this really about?’ And then, ‘How do I use this technology to make that message clearer?’ So it’s never about technique for it’s own sake.” "On Vocation" expounds on the idea of work, using traditional professionals at the inspiration for high fashion looks. By varying lines, forms, focus, and clarity, Platon is able to draw your eye to exactly what he wants you to see. There's no handholding, but there is a manipulation. He's telling you a story and wants to make sure you hear it just right. These results are not available as a filter or sliding bar in a Photoshop tool. It transcends fiddling with contrast or saturation. It's the end result of explorations, and it did not present itself. It had to be sought out.
The creative voyage can be a solitary one, but often is made more rich through symbiotic relationships. For Platon, working with Garage Magazine has offered him that. “Charlotte Stockdale is someone who I have really found a voice with,” Platon says. “One thing in this business you need is to find creative partners that push you. We respect each other immensely and push each other. She’s always there pushing me into areas that I’m not normally pushed into.” When creative people come together and push each other to new limits we all benefit from seeing the world in new ways.