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Interview: Platon and Putin

We've featured Platon before, what with the Eliot Spitzer photo, and the cool videos on his site. I love his simple lighting, and even more so his entire approach to portraiture.

If you have ever been nervous before a big shoot, you'll really appreciate his video interview about shooting Vladimir Putin for Time's Man of the Year cover. Every time I hear Platon talk it makes me want to re-think my whole approach to shooting people.

Thanks much to Rob over at APE for the heads-up.


:: Platon Shoots Eliot Spitzer ::
:: Three Platon Videos ::
:: Platon: WSJ Ad Campaign ::



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Blogger jason.turan said...

Wow, after watching that video that must have been one intense session. I wonder if any of those 20 KGB guards are aspiring strobists?

May 22, 2008 11:43 PM  
Blogger kfs said...

That was an amazing story. And the loupe was very cool.

May 23, 2008 12:25 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Having been Time's person of the year in 06, I can totally relate to the stress of being put on the spot once you've found out.

Cool interview.

May 23, 2008 1:01 AM  
Blogger The Art We Breathe said...

Such a great story! Glad he stuck it out.

David, have you heard of or tested the PRESSlite VerteX? It looks intriguing, but I can't tell if it's worth checking out or just another gimmick.

May 23, 2008 1:07 AM  
Anonymous UncleSam said...

That's an awful portrait of Putin, actually. I understand that Platon shoots for Time Magazine and this is far from his first shot. Absolutely dumb portraiture, really.

Though I don't like him or what he's doing, Putin is a clever guy who represents the ruling elite in Russia now, one of the grey cardinals - there is nothing of it in the photo... If this is a good portraiture of the Russian leader, then why western people get so surprised, when they can't reason Russia at all?!

May 23, 2008 2:04 AM  
Anonymous Jesse Davis photography said...

Funny that he talks about bringing down Putin's defenses, finding a way past the habitual "tough" expression, being human together, and then -- another shot of Putin looking tough. And a bit resentful. Maybe the Time editors decided that a smiling, relaxed Putin made no sense for their story?

May 23, 2008 2:07 AM  
Anonymous lomoseb said...

E-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t !

May 23, 2008 4:00 AM  
Anonymous Richard Cave said...

Photoshop CS 3 has something called zoomify and you can post a image onto the web and your target audience can loupe into a image.


May 23, 2008 5:31 AM  
Blogger tschnitzlein said...

Fascinating story with a vital point:

Get your technique out of the way and connect to the person you're portraying.

That's actually the biggest challenge - to master your ligvhts and your camera so that it doesn'd stand between the two humans that actually run the interaction that's being documented.

May 23, 2008 6:47 AM  
Blogger chadw said...

Excellent story! Platon is becoming one of my favourites. He is very honest and his story shows that technical prowess with your equipment is only a fraction of the skills needed to get the kind of photos he does.

There are many camera-philes, who focus on their equipment, but Platon is a true photographer focusing on the human part of the equation.

May 23, 2008 6:48 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

Wow, talk about putting things in to context! And to think I get nervous before I do a shoot with a friend!

Great story and an even greater image.

May 23, 2008 7:05 AM  
Blogger chrisgraphics said...

It seems to me that Platon is also a very good narrator. His story about the Putin interview is so intense in the way he tells it, that you cannot but be captured by it from the very beginning. Better than a movie.

May 23, 2008 8:07 AM  
Anonymous Brandon D. said...

Yeah, it's amazing; I also think Platon is a great speaker, too. He does a wonderful job of expressing his ideas, not just visually, but also verbally. He'll have a great teaching career ahead of him if he ever decides to stop doing editorial and commercial shooting.

He's definitely high up on my list of favorite photograhpers!!!

May 23, 2008 8:44 AM  
Blogger Patrick Smith said...

My favorite part wasn't the image, his approach or the story in itself, but the line where Platon said, "Get rid of the power, so we can be humans together." That is such a struggle we, as photographers go through and it is that moment of making them, the subject, feel comfortable and breaking the barrier that is important in making a nice portrait.

Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

May 23, 2008 9:50 AM  
Blogger Scott Viney said...

Anyone know how to get in contact with Platon? Ive tried his website contact area and the email I sent was rejected.

Just want him to change the spelling of Columbia to Colombia on the website.

Send me an email if you find out his contact details

May 23, 2008 10:14 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

That was fabulous - the interview with Platon was heartfelt and the story was hysterical. It reminded me of my first gig ever - I was exhausted before it started, all because I got to photograph Bobby Rahal, a racing hero of mine. 'Course I made about fifty buck on it...I expect Platon was paid a bit more...

May 23, 2008 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't care much for the portrait itself, but the story behind it and getting the subject's defenses down were very interesting to me. Maybe this is the best he could do with Putin, who appears stonefaced in every photo I have seen of him. (I haven't seen the smiling one of him with Paul McCartney that was mentioned in the video.) I've watched DH do it in his weekend course, and I need to get much better at it to get less "posed" looks.

May 23, 2008 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A second ago, I just wrote a comment about not seeing the smiling Putin photo. Just found it using Google:

May 23, 2008 12:46 PM  
Anonymous lenny said...

No idea how else to inform David about this other than to leave a comment (I want to share with David in hopes he'd pass the word on to others).

Check out the June 2008 issue of National Geographic. There is an article on underwater slugs with color photos and all. Guess how the photographer shot them? Underwater. The cool thing is he created an underwater studio in order to shoot them. White sweep on top of a tripod and two lights attached to what appears to be articulated arms. The result is a studio look. The very end of the magazine has a shot of the setup. Way cool! And I'm sure the other photos were taken with the same setup except not with the sweep. Worth checking out for this article's pictures alone.

May 23, 2008 1:42 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I just found it interesting that Platon tries to drive the point of working for the image and convincing and selling, etc... hell, dude just waited around and the Time execs said "Will you sit for a photo" and Putin said "Yes." How did Platon influence that?

I dunno. Doesn't sound like Platon really had a lot to do with it.

May 23, 2008 4:44 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...


Supremely talented photographer.

Master bullsh*tter

The Indiana Jones of Photographers

Snatching the Syrup of Victory from the Depths of Despair

Tears in his OWN Reflection

Owns The Money Shot

Irritates the Whole Room

Better Read than Said, Obviously


Seriously, I love getting beat over the head by talent as the next guy, but jeez, should this guy really be as obnoxious as he is?

Am I REALLY supposed to believe that "The Button", red and all, and under a dome of glass, was on Putin's desk?

As if a flash went off accidentally, the world might soon vaporize?


And Master Hobby would change the way he interacts with subjects because of this guy?

Love the Playa, hate the Game....I guess?

What am I missing?

May 24, 2008 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Josh Mullenite said...

Matthew: I think the point is the way Platon got Putin, leader of one of the "meanest" political groups in the world, to let his guard down. Platon himself doesn't seem to think he had anything to do with getting the chance to shoot and even says he thinks it was out of pity.

It is interesting and it sparked the anthropologist inside me. Being able to get that personal with someone so powerful must be an amazing feeling.

May 24, 2008 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I am sorry to be rude, but Platon is a pretentious twit, I feel. The single-word name. The "that is my domain" (Putin as a human). The work he did - while all he did is wait. Worse, the awful picture: all the talk about getting through defenses, and then he takes a shot full of defenses.

May 24, 2008 8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to me platon didn't come off as pretentious. and i did like the portrait. but his description of it...his talent in connecting and bringing out the human side...does not match the image at all. putin looks tough and closed and superior, exactly the opposite of what platon described.

May 24, 2008 12:50 PM  
Blogger Dario said...

Oh my gosh. Great story, shedding light on the sheer volume of posing/masking that goes on behind those Russian walls when cameras/interviewers are around.

Usually, my only complaint with Platon's work itself is the unfairly uglifying nature of some of the portraits (gotta love the Rudy Guiliani and Obama face shots on his site), but this one of Putin has a very deserved sour look that fits the world's image of him like a glove. I can't get over how perfect the image feels on the cover of Time Magazine.

May 25, 2008 4:49 AM  
Blogger Grega said...

Huh, at first I thought I was the only one thinking that this guy was full of BS. He sure knows how to sell himself though.

May 26, 2008 7:28 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

I'll bet most of the commenter's haven't waited around for an hour or two only to get to squeeze off a handful of frames of MR Big Whig CEO, on film. I have and it's a stressful gig

NOW ramp it up times TEN or a HUNDRED in terms of all the emotions involved in a job like this.

Yeah maybe you think the shot's not much, but only a few would get a shot like this.

Besides, his stare freaks me out.

May 26, 2008 10:12 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Hello! strobist is a great site and as a result I made a short video looking at how I lit my recent project in San Fran with the easiest lighting set up ever...2 flashes, on the ground, using the internal remote in a worked great and as a result I shot 14 location in 24 hours.

and the site is

May 27, 2008 12:43 PM  
Anonymous KD said...

My guess is that Putin did show some of his human side, it's just that his human side is cold and stern. "Human" and "defenses down" doesn't necessarily mean that you've uncovered this secret nice or pleasant side of a person that they don't usually show. I feel for the guy having to wait 8 hours just for the possibility of maybe getting a shot with someone that intimidating.

May 29, 2008 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Heron said...

The story about Putin was excellent, but did you watch any of the others?

The one with the gorilla being carried out of the jungle, that's very much worth watching, very moving and affected me a lot. Some of the others are similar.

May 30, 2008 3:15 AM  
Blogger photonyx said...

Hi, I recently got the Time cover as well, using only two umbrellas, four strobes and two wireless triggers. Mainly due to information from Strobist. The cover is the one from June 2, 2008:

Too bad they didn't put my name in the credits, only the stock site they took it from.

Anyways, thanks for tips and keep on blogging!

June 02, 2008 1:29 PM  
Blogger Roberto said...

I would like to thank David, I have just received the DVD's collection.

Between the 2nd and the 3rd DVD's I was starting to sleeping a much did you talk David ? .... maybe because my English it is not so good, but at the end I wake up and am still wake up till now almost 1:00 am yesterday till 4am.

Very interesting method, I write done an order to a shop in NY, and I really exiting to start practice with this technique.

Hope to post my result quickly. I will follow you true this blog.

David and thanks to all of you guys .

Ciao from

Roberto alias "Robert Capra"

June 13, 2008 7:03 PM  
Blogger sidstar said...

I notice in Platon's WSJ Journey videos that he is shooting through a white umbrella with two layers of white fabric. I would like to find a source for this type of umbrella.

August 05, 2008 1:47 AM  
Blogger rulezman said...

Tutorial "how to"
Sorry translated from russian to english by google translator

November 26, 2008 10:03 AM  
Blogger Todd said...

Wow, I just watched that interview. The link you have posted here is not working now, but I managed to surf and find the new one here:

Imagine the life this portrait photographer has lived in 42 years!

August 07, 2010 1:20 AM  
Blogger Matthew Bordignon said...

Missing link,

April 22, 2013 9:19 AM  

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