PORTRAITS OF POWER:
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PLATON
Exhibition Dates: August 23, 2012 – November 11, 2012
Born in London in 1968, Platon was raised in the Greek Isles until his family returned to England in the 1970’s. He attended St. Martin’s School of Art and after receiving his BA with honors in Graphic Design, went on to receive an MA in Photography and Fine Art at the Royal College of Art. After working for British Vogue for several years, he was invited to NY to work for the late John Kennedy Jr. and his political magazine, ‘George’.
After shooting portraits for a range of international publications including Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ and the Sunday Times Magazine, Platon developed a special relationship with Time magazine, producing over 20 covers. In 2007 Platon photographed Russian Premier Vladimir Putin for Time Magazine’s Person Of The Year Cover. This image was awarded 1st prize at the World Press Photo Contest.
In 2008 he signed a multi-year contract with the New Yorker. As the staff photographer, he has produced a series of large-scale photo essays, two of which won ASME Awards in 2009 and 2010. Platon’s New Yorker portfolios have focused on many themes including President Obama’s Inauguration, the U.S Military, portraits of world leaders and the Civil Rights Movement.
The following year, Platon teamed up with the Human Rights Watch to help them celebrate those who fight for equality and justice in countries suppressed by political forces. These projects have highlighted human rights defenders from Burma as well as the leaders of the Egyptian revolution. Following his coverage of Burma, Platon photographed Aung San Suu Kyi for the cover of Time – days after her release from house arrest.
In recent years, public speaking has progressively played a major role in Platon’s career as communicator and storyteller. He has been invited to be a keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Yale, the London School of Economics, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the International Center of Photography in NY. He has also appeared on a range of television media including Charlie Rose (PBS), Morning Joe (MSNBC), Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (CNN) and the BBC World News.
The New Yorker, December 9, 2009:
In 1976, Richard Avedon went to Washington to photograph Henry Kissinger. As Avedon was leading him to his mark, Kissinger said, “Be kind to me.”
Artists have been making portraits of the mighty for centuries—from Velázquez’s Philip IV to Lucian Freud’s Elizabeth II—and the act of portrait-making can leave the royal or the tyrant, the President or the diplomat with a sudden feeling of disequilibrium, of a transfer of power. Avedon knew that Kissinger was trying to manipulate him, but what, exactly, did he want? “Did Kissinger want to look wiser, warmer, more sincere than he suspected he was?” Avedon wrote later. “Isn’t it trivializing and demeaning to make someone look wise, noble (which is easy to do), or even conventionally beautiful when the thing itself is so much more complicated, contradictory, and, therefore, fascinating?”
This past September, when nearly all the world’s leaders were in New York for a meeting of the United Nations, Platon, a staff photographer for this magazine, set up a tiny studio off the floor of the General Assembly, and tried to hustle as many of them in front of his lens as possible. For months, members of the magazine’s staff had been writing letters to various governments and embassies, but the project was a five-day-long improvisation, with Platon doing his best to lure the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chávez, and Muammar Qaddafi to his camera.
And so what did the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ask the photographer before the shutter clicked? “Platon,” he said, “make me look good.”
History is full of leaders who cannot bear the result of their sittings. Winston Churchill publicly praised a portrait of him by Graham Sutherland, but soon decided that it made him look senile. His wife, Clementine, destroyed it. Usually, it seems, politicians seek out a portrait artist at the beginning of their career. On February 27, 1860, the day he delivered his career-defining speech at Cooper Union, Abraham Lincoln walked over to Mathew Brady’s studio and had his picture taken. The greatest of American political lives had begun.
But the anxiety persists. While political theatre went on inside the General Assembly, Netanyahu kept stopping by Platon’s makeshift studio and repeated his request: “Make me look good.”