Controversial, original, charming, brilliant – celebrity photographer Platon has just published a book of his work over the past decade.
But just one year before that he was Building’s best-loved portraitist, shooting hundreds of stunning images of industry personalities for this very magazine.
From Lawrie Barratt to President Bill Clinton is a mighty long arc. Few of us at Building in 1993 could have predicted that our regular cover and interview photographer, Platon, would go on to photograph several American presidents, much of Hollywood, Premiership footballers and myriad other celebrities.
Platon’s Republic is a collection of a decade of his work, where a precocious talent, charm, wit and very hard work have gained him access to the British and US A-list.
Having worked with Platon prior to becoming Building’s art editor, I was keen to make him a regular contributor. He could solve a perennial problem with business magazines: portraying industry figures as individuals not ciphers – and making grey-haired men in suits look different from each other.
His very first Building portrait and cover, of Lawrie Barratt, proved that each cover could be surprising, startling, original and controversial. The excitement in the office each month when a box of his prints was opened is a vivid memory. And over the course of two years’ work, it’s difficult to detect much repetition or slackening of pace or standard.
Even a minister’s pressing schedule could not prevent him from completing an assignment. John Gummer, former secretary of state for the environment, allowed him to shoot only three frames. One of those frames made a strong cover, another made an even stronger interview portrait, and the third was also good enough to use.
The image of Will Alsop used in Platon’s Republic, from a June 1994 assignment, is another that could have appeared in the magazine – testament to how spoiled for choice we were with each shoot.
After two years of consistently reinventing, in photographic terms, the Building interview, it was
clear that commissioning such an in-demand photographer was becoming impractical. His last shoot for us was, in contrast to his usual black-and-white images, a colour portrait of David Taylor of English Partnerships in September 1995.
Still, the construction industry’s loss was the White House’s gain.
- Platon’s Republic by Platon, £35, published by Phaidon www.phaidon.com. Photographs © Platon/Art Department, courtesy of Phaidon Press.
Richard Krzyzak was art editor and then art director at Building from 1992 to 1998