HISTORY IN FRONT
OF A CAMERA
Having used Hasselblad cameras throughout his professional career, Platon credits the quality of the Hasselblad sensors and lenses as being critical components that support his ability to tell the visual stories that have made him such an important photographer and one of the most celebrated creatives of his generation. Discussing the Hasselblad system, Platon said, “Whenever I pick up the Hasselblad camera now, it’s that door is opening. I know I’m not just about to take a picture of somebody; something amazing is about to happen.”
Platon’s trademark photography style has, over the years, become as iconic and recognisable as the famous faces that he photographs. He uses simple lighting setups and often plain white or black backgrounds or just a blank wall, placing all of the emphasis on the subject. While seemingly straightforward, his ability to capture the essence of an individual takes an incredible amount of patience, skill and intuition.
Platon reads his subjects in a flash and finds ways to connect with them, enabling him to get below the surface-level tension associated with sitting for a portrait. When photographing Mark Zuckerberg, Platon needed to find a way to get past the Facebook founder’s protected exterior. In the first portrait he captured, Zuckerberg is visibly guarded, giving nothing to the camera.
“His neck was tense, his eyes were wide open. And he almost resisted every attempt I made to connect with him,” Platon said, speaking in an interview with PBS News about the famous image. Thinking on his feet, Platon asked him, “How do you cope with failure?” To which Zuckerberg replied, “There is no failure. I love what I do.” Platon said, “Show me.”
The resulting image is a transformation; Platon managed to capture a side of Zuckerberg the world has never seen before. He looked composed, but relaxed and elegant. That quick-fire question enabled the pair to develop a rapport and Zuckerberg allowed Platon to see beyond his guard, if only for a few frames. But that made all the difference.
Whenever I pick up the Hasselblad camera now, it’s like a door is opening. I know I’m not just about to take a picture of somebody; something amazing is about to happen.
Having used the Hasselblad 553ELX with a film back, as well as the latest H5D and H6D cameras, Platon not only enjoys the sharpness and clarity of Hasselblad lenses, but also believes the developments in technology have added to the quality of his fine work.
Speaking about the Hasselblad H5D, Platon said, “I was dumbfounded, actually, by the level of detail I’m able to capture with this camera. I had been used to Hasselblad lenses for so many years; the detail of the eye, the eye lashes, the pores in the skin. This is my visual language; I live with this universe. I’m finding there are things that I couldn’t do before. It’s allowing me to embrace technology and allowing me to grow as a photographer. And to produce, hopefully, work that moves people.”
When taking pictures of powerful people, photographers are rarely given more than 10-15 minutes to set up and often the same amount of time or significantly less to actually capture the images. Because their working time is so extremely limited, photographers like Platon need their camera equipment to meet the highest standards of reliability and consistency. Speaking about the importance of having a camera he can trust, Platon said, “I’m so privileged to be in a place where a fleeting moment is literally history in front of my camera. If my equipment lets me down, then it was all for nothing. So for me, the trust in my camera, the relationship I have with my camera, is one of the most important things in my life.”
Visit Platon’s Instagram for some incredible insights into the stories behind his iconic images and his experiences with the characters he photographs.
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