Photographer: Platon (full name: Platon Antoniou)
Specialty: Editorial and Commercial Portraiture
Favored Camera/Lens Brand: Hasselblad
Other Products Used: Profoto lights, umbrellas, Kodak & Fuji color negative film
If you’re reading this, then you definitely know who Platon is. But I’ll say it anyway: he is one of today’s greatest living portrait photographers, renowned for his incredible intimate (and sometimes quirky portraits of world leaders like President Bill Clinton and Muammar Gaddafi, as well as entertainers like Willy Nelson.
Here are some great videos of Platon discussing his work:
Now, if you’re interested in producing work like Platon, my first suggestion would be to pick up any of his excellent books, particularly Portraits of Power, his seminal book of portraits of world leaders. Note: it’s only about $16 and it’s probably a better investment than the gear I’ll discuss below.
If you’re interested in the Platon ‘look’, there’s nothing particularly interesting in his gear bag.
Platon’s primary camera is a Hasselblad 553 ELX loaded with Kodak or Fuji color negative film, most likely Kodak Porta 160, which is the best color neg film ever made.
For lenses, he primarily uses a 120mm lens, though he used a 30mm fisheye for the famous Bill Clinton shot. A 120mm lens in the 6×6 medium format of the Hasselblad works out to about 67mm in 35mm terms. So, if you’d like something around 85mm for portraits. Both Canon and Nikon have great, affordable options here.
For lighting subjects, he uses a single Profoto strobe head through an umbrella or small softbox. If you don’t have an umbrella, one spectacular model to look at is the Photek Softlighter, which includes a diffusion material to further soften the light. It’s also a favorite of Annie Leibovitz.
Platon tends to shoot on plain backgrounds, sometimes with a strobe hitting them to add depth (though this effect may be added in post). A great way to start with these backgrounds is to get a 53″ wide roll of white seamless paper. You can use a solid-color plain wall, but be aware that some paints may be overly reflective and spill light onto your subjects
Also note: It’s a lot easier to deal with these short rolls than the big ones. And remember, you don’t need a background stand setup — you can tape it to the wall with gaffer’s tape. DO NOT USE DUCT TAPE AS IT WILL RUIN YOUR PAINT!!!!