Yesterday I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Abstract: The Art of Design”. I watched the inspiring episode about a Greek photographer called “Platon Antoniou” whom his family came to England as immigrants. He explained that one afternoon he was jumped by a guy who beat him so hard that he fractured his cheekbone and eye socket and got his ribs busted. At the hospital he was screaming out of despair and pain: “Why me??” And an old lady next door said: “Why not you? What’s special about you?”.
After that he started to harness the experience that happened to him and that made him empathize with people who are hurt. This opened a new door for him. He then worked at George Magazine which was a huge thing for him but when John Kennedy died tragically; he felt the door was slammed at his face and he went back “home” to Greece and expressed himself around people of his own home.
Platon went back to New York and the New Yorker heard about his Greek photographs so they took him as a photographer where he did large photo essays such as for the Military, about Burma people, undocumented immigrant and Bakavu in Congo. Platon focused on horrible situations in the world. He got people’s stories and brought them to life.
It is the experience he went through as an immigrant and being beaten is what taught him to be affectionate towards others with similar situations. It is what helped him produce photographs that when you look at them; you can read everything from the subject’s eyes. He learnt how to listen to his subjects and empathize with them to get their stories and then show them to the world. He became a bridge builder.
It is also the journeys he took to other countries is what made his photographs so inspiring but it is not till he returned to his home to explore it like something new to him. We always leave home to explore thinking journeys in a new country will result with better pictures than at where we are but sometimes the best photographs are created at home that shows our own identity and reflects our own personality.
Platon also talked about observing, something I learnt from the French writer Georges Perec in his book “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris“, the way he explained it is very interesting:
“When you are still and sitting, your powers of observation go through the roof. If someone walks by, it’s a massive event, you start noticing that the lady’s stockings have got a tear, that the bag they’re carrying maybe has nothing in it. You tap into the human condition. That’s a very powerful thing. And it’s those amazing details of humanity that you start to understand”. — Platon
Here are some of his powerful photographs: