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What would you have said to these people?

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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I am always smitten by a bit of jealousy when I encounter projects like this one of Platon's portraits of world leaders. I want to be the guy they choose to shoot this stuff. I day dream about how I would accomplish the images, what I would say to the subjects, how deferential or direct I might be. Whenever posts like this one come along, one of the very first things you read is "It ain't much, I coulda done it better!". I would have done it slightly differently, but that's what makes me who I am, and Platon who he is. I love what he did, and I admire the skills it took to accomplish the project...

But what would you have said to these people when they were on set? Be very specific, pick one and run with it.

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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Lumigraphics
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Top Re: What would you have said to these people?

Maybe its just me, but I don't put these people on a pedestal. Being a "world leader" sometimes means the person is noteworthy, but just as often it means they are corrupt, ruhtless, power-hungry despots who lied, cheated, schemed, and killed to be in a position of authority. Most of them have been complicit if not directly approved and participated in various crimes against other nations and people.

The article names the President of Iran, the Supreme Leader of Libya, and Prime Minister of Israel; all have blood on their hands.

So what would I say to them? Nothing. Chastising them for allowing hunger, disease, religious, racial and tribal warfare, and corporate greed to carry on untrammeled would be pointless as they would just ignore it. Putting on a happy face would be complete fakery. So, I would most likely portray them to look as evil as their actions have made them.

I realize that The New Yorker readership, advertisers, and editorial board would expect fawning coverage of the UN and political leadership so I don't suppose I would have been hired in the first place.

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AVD
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Lumigraphics wrote:

Maybe its just me, but I don't put these people on a pedestal. Being a "world leader" sometimes means the person is noteworthy, but just as often it means they are corrupt, ruhtless, power-hungry despots who lied, cheated, schemed, and killed to be in a position of authority. Most of them have been complicit if not directly approved and participated in various crimes against other nations and people.

The article names the President of Iran, the Supreme Leader of Libya, and Prime Minister of Israel; all have blood on their hands.

So what would I say to them? Nothing. Chastising them for allowing hunger, disease, religious, racial and tribal warfare, and corporate greed to carry on untrammeled would be pointless as they would just ignore it. Putting on a happy face would be complete fakery. So, I would most likely portray them to look as evil as their actions have made them.

I realize that The New Yorker readership, advertisers, and editorial board would expect fawning coverage of the UN and political leadership so I don't suppose I would have been hired in the first place.

It took me a while to figure out, and I needed Lumigraphics' post to crystallize my thinking.  To figure out what I would say I had to figure out what I felt about the existing portrait series.  That took time.  It wasn't immediately obvious to me (perhaps Im clueless).

What I saw in the pics was borderline editorial-cartoonish portrayal of a lot of the world leaders....something very subtle but very much almost-a-caricature-street-sketch emphasizing details to get noticed (like a big nose emphasized by choice of lens or poorly fitting glasses given a touch of unnecessary glare etc etc). The ones who are on everyone's hit list did not have this caricature-tint but harder edges. Not cartoon evil but darkness and toughness.  What I would have done (and I realize there is no chance in a million years of it ever happening) is be more subtle about it yet still tell them upfront what I was going for:

"Mr ______ my opinions are unimportant and I am not here to praise or condemn you for matters taht I am probably not qualified to discuss, but the world thinks of you as a tough dark evil man. I will bring that out in the portrait.  Are you game?" 

This is something I am sure didn't come up in the sessions but it is how I work on a much much smaller scale.

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Knomad One
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I can't really talk much about the current crop of world leaders.  But I can tell you a few things about the people who were in power in the late 1970s.

I was just a kid at the time, still in college, still idealistic, still thinking I could change the world.  I managed an office for a congressional campaign in the north suburbs of Chicago.  One thing that campaigns do is trot big names through for fund raising dinners, for press conferences, for any excuse to draw a crowd or raise money.  We, the young staffers, pretty much always had some one on one time with those folks, however brief it might be.  Even at the expensive fund raising dinners, some hot shot CEO who had just been called out of town would usually give us his tickets.

Ironically, even though everyone on the campaign knew that until very recently I'd worked as a pro photojournalist, and still shot model comps and product photography then, they only very rarely asked me to cover an event with a camera... I only remember twice, when photographers cancelled at the last second.  They hired photographers to shoot the events, and my time was perceived to be more valuable doing other things.  The candidates wife was a respected art photographer in her own right, and she had a pretty good understanding of how these things worked.

On the two occasions I had to shoot, I had essentially no time to talk to the person in the frame.  It was the other times, when I didn't need to carry a camera, that I had my conversations.  So I can tell you George Bush Sr. (before he ran for President) was actually a little introverted and shy, and that I came away from that conversation respecting his intelligence.  I can tell you that contrary to the image created by the press, Gerald Ford moved like the athlete he once was, and had a formidable memory... we were introduced to him before a dinner, then had more time to talk to him afterwards; two hours and several hundred handshakes later, and he remembered our names, every single one of us staffers.  The longest conversation was with then Senator Bob Dole, because I was  asked to be his handler through several press conferences one day, had a couple of hours with him.  He came across as a nice enough person but very old fashioned and rigid, very inflexible in his opinions... still living in the late 1940s.  I never had a chance to talk much with then CEO Don Rumsfeld, even though he lived in the district and sat on the same committe that I did, because he was easily the most arrogant person I ever had a five-second handshake with.  Usually, he arrived in a bulletproof limo driven by a bodyguard.  Ironically, his daughter was a sweetheart... as a friend of mine pointed out, he was probably rarely there to help raise her.  Then Illinois Governor Jim Thompson wasn't very approachable either, although it was in a more benign way... he was just a little distant and self-absorbed, even when sitting at the same breakfast table.

There were a plethora of lesser lights; James Baker, Edwin Meese, Jack Kemp, too many state reps and state senators to count.  Some of them were nice guys, some of them weren't.  Kind of like with ordinary people.

We really didn't talk about issues a lot.  They had to do that all day every day, and we had to write position papers and arrange policy talks.  So for all of us, it was a chance to laugh, joke, make small talk.  That's a key piece of advice for anyone who meets a world leader:  If you want to get inside their heads, don't start by asking serious questions.  Threat them like some guy you just met at the corner tavern, and you'll usually get a better response.

On one hand I regret not making the time to photograph some of them.  But at the same time, I realize that had I done that, I probably would have seen only the formal side of them, the public facade.

I still move among politicians, but now it's county and local and occasionally state level folks.  I wish I could show you the real side of them, what they're like when not in public.  Who knows, maybe someday I'll bring a camera and do just that.

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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Top Re: What would you have said to these people?

Knomad One wrote:

Threat them like some guy you just met at the corner tavern, and you'll usually get a better response.

I work with prima donas and head cases all day long, heart surgeons seem to be my specialty because i can actually get a genuine smile out of them. I'm able to do this because I treat them like I'm actually interested in what they have to say. But I never talk about heart surgery, I talk about mundane stuff that they aren't prepared to discuss, like garbage strikes and Tiger Woods driving into a tree. It gets the focus off of their celebrity and onto a more level play field. I do that with politicians and bankers and just about everyone that thinks their shit doesn't stink. And if I find that doesn't work, i'll play like a fool for a few minutes to maneuver them into a position to react to me and not themselves.

It worked every time but once. Charles Evans, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank didn't bite, but he's the biggest A-hole I've ever met, and I told him that just before i took his picture. Worked like a charm. The shot of him they used in Newsweek makes him look like a murderer, and i was happy to oblige.

Lumagraphics maybe misunderstands my objective. The picture in many cases is meaningless, the experience is priceless. Suppose I'm in front of Moammar Kadafi... I think I might say something to him like "I like to play soccer, but since they changed the size of the ball it seems more like a sport for sissies than real men, what do you think?" He would be so confused by that statement, I would get pictures of him looking stupid. Then, I might ask him something like... "Do you think it possible you might have been able to be an artist if things in your life had been different?". Not stupid, introspective for a few frames. Then, to complete the sitting, I would ask him something like.. "Do you ever think of life in terms of Christianity, and if so, do you think you'll beg God's forgiveness on your death bed?". I believe at that point I might get to see the real Moammar Kadafi, at least for a few frames.

I don't adore any of these people, I am however mystified by their rise to power and how it affects their humanity.

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Andrew Thomas Evans
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Top Re: What would you have said to these people?

Sometime in the past few years there was an interview with him on public radio… I’ll try to find it.

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Andrew Thomas Evans
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Andrew Thomas Evans wrote:

Sometime in the past few years there was an interview with him on public radio… I’ll try to find it.

Ok, I guess it was here...

?

Click on 2008, and then over to Putin's picture.


I guess you put your arm around him and say "what was it like to meet paul mccartney".

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PashaPhoto
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Top Re: What would you have said to these people?

Bob, i saw this pic today and immediately assumed that it was one of yours...

http://gothamist.com/attachments/mihiryouthere/Picture%202.png

if it is, how was it working with this guy ?

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Knomad One
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Kevlar Vest Girl wrote:


I don't adore any of these people, I am however mystified by their rise to power and how it affects their humanity.

In some cases, they've given orders that resulted in the deaths of a whole lot of people.  Even for those who have worked in more subtle first-world ways, they've survived the rise to power with just about everyone under them attempting to claw them down.  Whatever one thinks of them as human beings... and some remain more human than others... it's useful not to underestimate these people.

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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PashaPhoto wrote:

Bob, i saw this pic today and immediately assumed that it was one of yours...

http://gothamist.com/attachments/mihiryouthere/Picture%202.png

if it is, how was it working with this guy ?

Weird... that's a Jill Greenbeg picture. I don't do anything at all remotely close to my pictures that she does to hers. Well, except the crying part.

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Photons 2 Pixels
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I honestly can't say. I think to best capture them, I would have just set up the camera and lights, and then just start talking to them. As they relaxed and "became themselves", I would have snapped some shots.

I would love to be in the situation to photograph any one of them, though. It would definitely be interesting.

I not only play an idiot on the interwebz, I R 1

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Joe Fogg Photography
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Lumigraphics wrote:

Maybe its just me, but I don't put these people on a pedestal. Being a "world leader" sometimes means the person is noteworthy, but just as often it means they are corrupt, ruhtless, power-hungry despots who lied, cheated, schemed, and killed to be in a position of authority. Most of them have been complicit if not directly approved and participated in various crimes against other nations and people.

The article names the President of Iran, the Supreme Leader of Libya, and Prime Minister of Israel; all have blood on their hands.

So what would I say to them? Nothing. Chastising them for allowing hunger, disease, religious, racial and tribal warfare, and corporate greed to carry on untrammeled would be pointless as they would just ignore it. Putting on a happy face would be complete fakery. So, I would most likely portray them to look as evil as their actions have made them.

I realize that The New Yorker readership, advertisers, and editorial board would expect fawning coverage of the UN and political leadership so I don't suppose I would have been hired in the first place.

I agree with this, I wouldn't waist my time to photograph any of them no matter what the price! Nor would i even want to be in the same room. All those images ought to be mug shots!

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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Joe Fogg Photography wrote:

Lumigraphics wrote:

Maybe its just me, but I don't put these people on a pedestal. Being a "world leader" sometimes means the person is noteworthy, but just as often it means they are corrupt, ruhtless, power-hungry despots who lied, cheated, schemed, and killed to be in a position of authority. Most of them have been complicit if not directly approved and participated in various crimes against other nations and people.

The article names the President of Iran, the Supreme Leader of Libya, and Prime Minister of Israel; all have blood on their hands.

So what would I say to them? Nothing. Chastising them for allowing hunger, disease, religious, racial and tribal warfare, and corporate greed to carry on untrammeled would be pointless as they would just ignore it. Putting on a happy face would be complete fakery. So, I would most likely portray them to look as evil as their actions have made them.

I realize that The New Yorker readership, advertisers, and editorial board would expect fawning coverage of the UN and political leadership so I don't suppose I would have been hired in the first place.

I agree with this, I wouldn't waist my time to photograph any of them no matter what the price! Nor would i even want to be in the same room. All those images ought to be mug shots!

I'm just curious, and I'm not making any judgements here, but I do wonder what you and Lumigraphics do for a living, what you studied in school, what level of education you achieved.

Myself, I shoot full time for my own business, I studied Political Science with a Journalism minor, and I didn't finish college. I became disillusioned with my prospects, based on my education, while in school.

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MCarle
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Top Re: What would you have said to these people?

Our own presidents have blood on their hands.

Anyone who has lived long enough has blood on his hands.

People are born and live and die everyday.

Doing what you believed was best for your people is not evil, it is survival of humanity at its core.

If any one of us was in charge of an entire population of peoples, all of us would have to accept the position of who gets to live and who gets to die.

Just in case BOB wants to know about me as well:
No college Just a few courses here & there.
Full time photographer
EX full time model
Before that retail for a decade

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Lumigraphics
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Well right now, I'm struggling for a living. In the past I have been in the military, worked as a shipyard electrician, web developer, graphic artist, network/computer administrator, and photographer. The economy here sucks so hard that there pretty much are no jobs for anyone...its really ugly.

I have attended to colleges- one in Washington and one here in Michigan. My first major was math and then I got sick of that and switched to CIS (computers) where I'm close but no cigar to a degree.

I've been lucky enough to be able to live where I wanted and pretty much do what I've wanted as an adult, career-wise, although its REALLY tough right now.

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John Rayner
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Kevlar Vest Girl wrote:

But what would you have said to these people when they were on set? Be very specific, pick one and run with it.

Mixing politics and art is the realm of editorial cartoonists, and would just leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I would not have wasted any time seeking out any of these people to shoot. People are people, no matter their station in life, just another subject to photograph.

That said, I would ask them how they would like to be seen and try my hardest to create an image that reflects their self image and not mine. After all, that is what photograghers are hired to do.

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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John Rayner wrote:



Mixing politics and art is the realm of editorial cartoonists, and would just leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I would not have wasted any time seeking out any of these people to shoot. People are people, no matter their station in life, just another subject to photograph.

That said, I would ask them how they would like to be seen and try my hardest to create an image that reflects their self image and not mine. After all, that is what photograghers are hired to do.

I don't believe all people are the same. All you need do is read some of the random posts on an internet forum to determine the pecking order in the universe. John Lennon, Hitler, Salk, Stalin, take your pick, they all changed the world. Getting in front of them with my camera would be the pinnacle of my career. I'm sure the resultant pictures would be interesting and just fine, but the process, the time spent with them, would be the reward. Just imagine trying to match wits with a world changer.

A number of you have said they are nothing more than "just people". You and I both know that's pure bullshit. They are the people that have, through pure power of will and talent, changed how we live. they are smarter, more creative, more evil, more devious, than any of us can begin to comprehend. Being given mere minutes to determine how they tick, what made them so different, and bending them to my will, if only for a few seconds, would be a reward that would last a life time. I don't think portrait photography is about the subject, I think it's about me.

As far as what I'm hired to do, and i realize this is just me, but it might give a little insight into a different world, I'm never told to go out and get a portrait of how the subject sees them self. My usual instructions are, "make him/her look approachable", "make him/her look superior", "make him/her look fun". Stuff like that comes from the editors and art directors that assign the projects, and they never once consider what the subject may want. The few personal sittings I do, that involve civilians with no commercial connection, are always shot to my esthetic, without any consideration for what the subject wants. My thinking is they came to me for something they saw in my work, and what they saw was me, not them. I figure if they want to see themselves, they can go to Walmart and get that.

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Rich
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Mamoud,

This is a CIA camera.  It doesn't take pictures, but shoots 45 cal bullets.  Smile, you're about to meet your virgins!

big_smile

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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I've experienced this before in other threads on other sites, and I guess it's just another case of not knowing my audience. I was expecting more, I was hoping for more.

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Lumigraphics
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Kevlar Vest Girl wrote:

I've experienced this before in other threads on other sites, and I guess it's just another case of not knowing my audience. I was expecting more, I was hoping for more.

I guess you aren't dealing with portrait photographers. I would probably find it rather boring to shoot portraits of these folks.

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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Lumigraphics wrote:

Kevlar Vest Girl wrote:

I've experienced this before in other threads on other sites, and I guess it's just another case of not knowing my audience. I was expecting more, I was hoping for more.

I guess you aren't dealing with portrait photographers. I would probably find it rather boring to shoot portraits of these folks.

.

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StMarc
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To all of them:

"Nice to meet you. How much time can you spare me today. Okay, that's enough for [x] looks. Let's get started."

If you had a time machine and an improbability generator and got me a gig shooting Richard Feynman, I might be a little tongue-tied. Otherwise, eh, I'm here to do a job. Been around rich people, movie stars, and politicos. Don't really care.

M

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StMarc
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Kevlar Vest Girl wrote:

I've experienced this before in other threads on other sites, and I guess it's just another case of not knowing my audience. I was expecting more, I was hoping for more.

Your original question didn't really make clear you were interested in psychological manipulation to get pose and expression out of such people: you implied that you were more interested in the the genuine reaction which might be exemplified in the hypothetical photographer's remarks. If you're disappointed that your subterfuge was too subtle, well, I don't know what to tell you.

I personally don't feel much regret in disappointing you. I'd as soon push most politicians off a cliff into a shark pit as look at them, but if I'm being paid to produce an image, I am not going to go the Jill Greenberg route. The woman makes us all look bad and makes the job of professional photographers that much harder with her childish buffoonery. Would I use metaphor to get an expression if I felt it would be helpful? Of course I would. But no more and no less than I'd use it with Jane Doe the 19-year-old-aspiring-model from Peoria. I might use a more sophisticated reference with a sophisticated person, but that's the only difference.

M

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Kevlar Vest Girl
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StMarc wrote:

Kevlar Vest Girl wrote:

I've experienced this before in other threads on other sites, and I guess it's just another case of not knowing my audience. I was expecting more, I was hoping for more.

Your original question didn't really make clear you were interested in psychological manipulation to get pose and expression out of such people: you implied that you were more interested in the the genuine reaction which might be exemplified in the hypothetical photographer's remarks. If you're disappointed that your subterfuge was too subtle, well, I don't know what to tell you.

I personally don't feel much regret in disappointing you. I'd as soon push most politicians off a cliff into a shark pit as look at them, but if I'm being paid to produce an image, I am not going to go the Jill Greenberg route. The woman makes us all look bad and makes the job of professional photographers that much harder with her childish buffoonery. Would I use metaphor to get an expression if I felt it would be helpful? Of course I would. But no more and no less than I'd use it with Jane Doe the 19-year-old-aspiring-model from Peoria. I might use a more sophisticated reference with a sophisticated person, but that's the only difference.

M

I've noticed on more than one occasion that you are prone to misinterpreting posts. There was nothing vague about my initial post, there was nothing hidden and there was no subterfuge. There was a simple enough question, followed by bullshit answers like yours. Everyone has been there and done that and is bored by it and would shoot Muslims with camera guns.

You didn't disappoint me, you were simply predictable.