Platon, the British photographer famous for his close-ups of world leaders, uses NFT photos of the human iris to show how man can be reduced to a unique but unrecognizable image. He even took a self-portrait of his own irises – but when placed in a row of irises he couldn’t tell his own from anyone else’s.
Plato only uses one name – like Prince, he says.
His first reduction in human portraits took place in June 2021 when he auctioned 12 anonymous irises as NFTs at a price of $ 111 each on the LGND.art marketplace. People who bid for the NFTs, every single mint, didn’t know whose Iris NFT they were buying.
They expected a pleasant surprise: as it turned out, they were offering NFTs depicting the irises of Kobe Bryant, Harry Styles, Harvey Weinstein, James Comey, George Clooney, Donald Trump, Cara Delevingne, Bill Clinton, Caitlyn Jenner, Alicia Keys, Spike Lee and Maria “Masha” Alyochina. They are all sold out but stayed in the secondary market as the owners apparently want the strange works of art.
Photographer to the stars
In a career littered with outstanding celebrity portraits, Plato is now consumed by human rights issues and more preoccupied with capturing the faces of activists. In 2008, he spent a year documenting civil rights leaders across America as part of a project commissioned by the New Yorker.
But while his mission is virtuous now, his world leader and celebrity shoots are legendary; he used the camera to tell stories, often asked provocative or eclectic questions – that’s his superpower.
For Plato, switching to NFTs was logical. “Photographers and artists are often innovative and looking for new technologies. We like to move into new rooms and experiment, ”he says.
Now he is indulging in his work on documenting human rights and working on projects with the United Nations. He has set up his own foundation, The People’s Portfolio, which amplifies the voices of the ignored. Important people don’t scare him – he doesn’t get scared easily. He quotes Martin Luther King who said: “beware of the illusion of domination.” The funds raised from these recent NFT declines will go directly to this foundation.
Plato treats everyone equally. He doesn’t care if you’re a human rights defender, an activist, a former political prisoner or a head of state.
“They are all people. Be nice. Be curious, ”he says.
“My job is to be a cultural provocateur. When I saw NFTs, I understood that for me, as an artist, this was a way of gaining control over my work. Feel a sense of empowerment – there is a long history of artists who throughout history have lost control of their creative output. At NFTs, I could see that we were eliminating the middlemen – we artists were going straight to the collectors. I got that.
“I also understood that I wanted to bring storytelling back into this new, exciting technology with NFTs. It’s more than technology; It is an opportunity to talk about the major problems facing society – issues such as human rights, climate change, poverty, women’s rights, social inclusion, racial equality.
“When I saw the craze for NFTs, I wondered if I could abuse some of that excitement and bring it to important social issues.”
Plato’s first NFT was a portrait of Edward Snowden. He admits that the whims of the world move in mysterious ways. In April an auction of the Snowden NFT raised $ 5.5 million for the Freedom of the Press Foundation and then $ 5,000 for its own foundation.
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Platon was born in 1968 and studied at Saint Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He started working in London and earned his career as a photographer. Soon he was collecting portraits in his captivating style, which could be both authentic and dramatic, and making a name for himself on British Vogue.
He didn’t know, but John F. Kennedy Jr. was looking for a photographer to publish his new George magazine in New York. Kennedy selected several of Plato’s portrait photos in magazines and told his staff that he wanted this photographer without knowing his name at the time. Kennedy only knew that he wanted a photographer who photographs people in a way that feels real. He grew up in a small circle, but wanted to present people – politicians and celebrities – as real people. So Plato was found because of his work and invited to New York.
It was 1995. The magazine’s tagline was “Not just politics as always” and neither do the pictures. Plato says:
“John told me we were working on a secret new project. He wanted to humanize the most powerful people in the world. He gave me access, he said I always had to be respectful, but he wanted me to produce real photography. “
When Kennedy was tragically killed in 1999, Plato wrote a cover story for him that same day. Plato had just landed in Hollywood when the FBI picked him up at the airport to give him the news.
“I was rooted in the States at the time, but had to go on without my mentor,” he says.
The year is 2000. President Bill Clinton is in the White House. Platon is hired by Esquire Magazine to do a formal shoot. Plato suspects this could be the only time he shoots a living president (actually, he shoots six in his illustrious 30-year career).
The camera hangs on his hands like a James Dean cigarette and he asks: “Are you going to show me love?”
Immediate concern among the White House team – the impeachment proceedings for the Monica Lewinsky affair had ended a year earlier. There is silence, everyone looks at Plato in amazement, while an aide leans forward and does not say too softly in Clinton’s ear: “That is not advisable, Mr. President. We had enough love in this administration. ”Instead, Clinton brushed him aside and said in his distinctive, drawn-out voice: “Shut up, shut up, I know what he wants.”
The result is the famous step shot with Clinton sitting, hands on knees, knees bent and full of charisma and strength. People said afterwards that the tie was an arrow pointing to the seat of power.
Putin with the Beatles
Cut to President Vladimir Putin in Russia in 2007. He is from Time Magazine “Person of the year.” Plato takes photos. He thinks: what should one ask this powerful man? So he asked him about the Beatles. It turned out that Putin really likes the Beatles and Paul McCartney is his favorite member of the groundbreaking band. Look at the resulting portrait of Putin and see him hum “Yesterday.” not “Back in the USSR.,” laughs Plato.
It’s not just questions – it’s storytelling and a way of relating to your subjects. Plato has a son named Jude and a dog named Sgt. Pepper. Plato clearly likes the Beatles too.
A lifelong photograph made it possible for Plato to tap into the authentic and to look into the heads of his motifs. Sometimes these subjects are the most powerful people in the world, sometimes people whose power has been taken from them, and sometimes people who are simply ignored.
It’s the ignored that he’s obsessed with now. “It’s not that they don’t have a voice, it’s just that people aren’t listening,” he says.
He is also present in all of Plato’s portraits. He got so close to Putin that he could feel Putin’s breath on his hands as he held the camera inches away from his face.
“All of my photography is 50% subjects and 50% me,” he says.
He rejects constant photography and sharing on social media.
“This is not a photograph, there is no connection. It’s just mechanical. We have been stripped of our connection and COVID made this clear. “
Pussy Riot NFT
Putin famously hated the feminist punk band Pussy Riot and defended their imprisonment on the grounds that they threatened the moral foundations of Russia.
Plato first met Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova after she was released from prison. Ten years ago he photographed her in his studio. They fumbled around in his studio, made homemade masks out of garbage. He photographed them in the masks and not. As we speak, he quotes from her speech in the dock before she was sentenced to two years in a penal colony.
She said, “It’s not the three of us women from a punk rock group who are on trial here. It is you, the Russian Federation. it is not your place to judge us. It is up to history to judge us all. And history will be the ultimate judgment as to whether our values are right or wrong. “
He knew he wanted to combine that powerful speech with her Iris in an NFT to celebrate her courage.
Plato took her iris and paired it with reading her declaration of atonement to create a unique NFT. The auction ran for seven days in September, but due to the whims of the world mentioned above, this NFT was not sold. It doesn’t stop Plato, however. He has many more iris and occasions to celebrate and is planning several iris NFT drops in the future.
The trouble with Harvey
The core of these drops is a story. Every iris tells a story. Every story asks a question.
Included in the first drop was filmmaker Harvey Weinstein before the #MeToo movement.
“Back then, the portrait had the motto ‘Bad Boy Hollywood’. Now we know he’s a modern monster.
“What if I took away 90%, 95% of the picture. Only reduced to the eye, the window to the soul, and reduced even further to the iris. What can we see then? Can we even judge? “
What brings us to the title of the drop – “Eye loves you, eye hates you II.”
“The eye is the most intimate part of the body; When we’re in love, we look deep into our partner’s eyes, ”says Plato.
“If I pull away everything but the iris – can we love, can we hate? And if all of our irises are indistinguishable, who can judge that? “