Platon Tells the Story Behind His Portrait of Vladimir Putin

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.

(via CNN via Fstoppers)

  • thingwarbler

    Fascinating. Loved the picture he came away with; intriguing to get the back story.

  • olafs_osh

    so short :/

  • David Liang

    Yeah I wish that was longer it seems like it would be such a fascinating story.

  • tree

    So his favorite song by Beatles is Yesterday…would have guessed Happiness is a Warm Gun

  • Andrew Kandel

    Not Back in the USSR?

  • herzco

    Interesting video, however I don’t see where it humanizes the power system,or says who Putin “really” is. It looks pretty much like Platon’s usual stuff (which of course resembles Martin Schoeller’s work.

  • David

    I really dislike this image.
    Lousy lighting and bad overall look of the image.
    Oh well.

  • Jonathon Mayer

    In Soviet Russia the USSR never left.

  • MMielech

    I don’t know. I’d feel pretty damn safe if I was in the same room as Putin’s immediate security detail.

    Bit of hyperbole being thrown about, but, what do you expect from someone with one name.

  • Nigel

    Interesting story, but certainly not an intimate moment portrait.

  • Michael McNamara

    I tried posting the link, but it didn’t work. There’s a video on Vimeo of him talking about the shoot, and he goes into a lot more detail. It’s the first five minutes of a 45 minute talk at Eddie Adams. Just google “Platon Eddie Adams Workshop.”

  • AimeeCandelaPhoto

    Platon IS one of my favorite portrait shooters. The stories that come from many of his known portraits definitely give the viewer true insight of who we’re seeing. Not many photographers have this gift of trust and intimacy with their subject(s) as Platon does.

  • Yeah….

    I wish he’d tell the Christopher Walken story.

  • Yeah Yeah

    Or the Bill Clinton story…

  • Yeah….

    Hmm… When I had a discussion with him, he told a much more in-depth story about the whole thing. To the point of him physically touching Putin which freaked everyone out.