Back in 2007, world-renown visual storyteller Platon took on an assignment to capture a photograph of Russian president Vladimir Putin. In what would end up being one of the scariest assignments of his life (which is saying a lot given some of the stuff he’s covered), his portrait session for TIME‘s person of the year award involved just a few more guns and guards than most.
In the video above, put together by CNN, Platon runs through the shoot from start to finish, giving us some insight into the rather frightening environment he found himself working in.
The important takeaway is that he didn’t go in without a plan. Before the assignment, he did some research on the Russian president and found out Putin is a massive Beatles fan. Using that as a bit of an ice-breaker, Platon was able to strike a positive chord with “the face of cold authority” by pursuing this topic of conversation.
As to what he tries to accomplishing when photographing such high-profile individuals, Platon noted:
What I’m striving for is to humanize the power system, to ask a very important question: who are you, who are you really?
It’s an honorable approach and one I think we can all agree should be the goal when capturing such moments. But it’s never a goal that comes easy.
This video gives us an interesting first-hand account of someone trying to achieve this goal, and shows that even the scariest situations can be handled well when you’ve done your homework and know how best to connect with your subject. A true professional can draw an intimate moment out of even the most guarded of individuals.