Platon's Nike Photographs of Brazil's National Football Team
Platon shot the "lineup of all lineups" for Nike ahead of this year's World Cup: a photographic frieze of Brazil's National Football Team, chief influencers, and favela dwellers each clad in the country's yellow football jersey.
"It's a project of epic proportions and the people at Nike supported me to do this," Platon said, noting the concept came from a mural depicting defenders of human rights that he is currently working on for the soon-to-be-opened Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. "The directors of Nike fell in love with that … they are visionaries, they are masters of branding, but – more than that – they believe in humanity and doing something that lifts our spirits. They're very aware of their power in the world, but they're trying their hardest to use it in the right way."
Nike sent Platon to Brazil for a successful discussion with National Football Team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his top brass. "Against all odds, I persuaded every player to sit for me and I built this Nike lineup akin to the Parthenon frieze, a sort of battle scene; however, these are the heroes of our time, in terms of sports," he explained. "To get pictures with meaning, you can't do it from a safe distance – you have to get close. In many cases, I spoke to the athlete and said, 'I'm not here to do a sports picture, I'm not here to do a marketing picture, I'm here to make history and I'm going to photograph you in a way you've never been photographed before, but I can't do it alone.' "
Names like Neymar, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Paulinho, and Bernard participated in Platon's mission to create an image portraying their love of the game. "Each player does it in his own way," he continued. "Many of them have tattoos and pointed to a specific part that represents their parents or religion … another guy made his goal-scoring gesture. Everything was constructed around individuality."
He also photographed Samba musician Ivo Meirelles, fashion designer Pedro Lourenço, actor Cauã Reymond, artist Bruno Big, surfer Pedro Scooby, among other Brazilian celebrities, and kids in the favelas – all wearing the Nike apparel. "I wove them into the lineup and it became social," Platon remarked. "If you look at the demonstrations in Brazil against the World Cup, the citizens are so frightened of being left behind and that it's a celebration of fame and power. I wanted to address this balance by taking down these icons from their pedestals and mixing them into the nation – it's in perfect tune with today's mentality … I think the days where we isolate our heroes are long gone – and the thread through the nation is the Nike clothing."
The Bernstein & Andriulli newcomer has made portraits for a range of international publications including The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, and the Sunday Times Magazine, and developed a special relationship with TIME – producing over 20 covers. His 2007 cover of TIME Magazine's Person of the Year Vladimir Putin was awarded first prize at the World Press Photo Contest.
In 2008, Platon signed a multiyear contract with The New Yorker, where he produced a series of large-scale photo essays, two of which won ASME Awards (2009 and 2010). He was honored with a Peabody Award in 2011 for his images portraying Russia's Civil Society made in collaboration with the magazine and Human Rights Watch.
Public speaking now plays a major role in Platon's career as communicator and storyteller, and he is represented by Washington Speakers Bureau. He delivered a keynote speech on leadership at the World Economic Forum in Davos and has also appeared on a range of television programs, such as "Charlie Rose" (PBS), "Morning Joe" (MSNBC), "Fareed Zakaria GPS" (CNN), and the BBC World News.
In 2013, Platon founded the non-profit foundation The People's Portfolio, which aspires to create a visual language that breaks barriers, expands dignity, fights discrimination, and enlists the public to support human rights around the world. He is currently a member of the Global Leadership Council for the World Economic Forum.