Film talk: Platon in Netflix's Abstract and the failure of a "view from nowhere"
On the recommendation of a friend, I watched the Abstract episode about Platon on Netflix. I hadn't heard of this photographer, but I'd seen his work on newsstands or online. You've seen it too. He's photographed many world leaders and celebrities. Many of them in the same tight close-up format. They're great photos, and he clearly does great technical work.
What surprised me though is that while he's committed to his art, he seems rather ambivalent about other things. One shoot, he'll photograph a war criminal, the next the victims of those war criminals, and seems to have little say other than "this is interesting and everyone has a story..."
It dawned on me, looking at his photos of soldiers, that his work bears a passing similarity to Jerry Bruckheimer. In Bruckheimer's hand, all is made mythic. It symbolizes everything but says very little.*
What really sealed this for me was Platon's own words after the election of Donald Trump. On Instagram he posted one of his portraits of the odious blowhard (Platon never has anything bad to say about anyone) and had this to say (quoted in its entirety):
“A note to my followers, some of you may have been surprised that I have not commented on Americas election results. It is true, that I am a political junkie and have spent the last 25 years immersed in issues of politics and leadership in the USA and the rest of the world. Yet, something seismic and historic has obviously happened to the USA and before I jump to conclusive analysis, I needed time for reflection, time to pause and step back. In my opinion, this was not an election about data, information, or even policy. It was an election about style and the impression of powerful story telling. While the American media looks for people to blame for their inaccurate pre-election analysis, we must take a hard look at how we tell stories. Social media has brought us so many benefits, but we must also deal with the dark side of the fourth industrial revolution. The undeniable disruption to our media institutions has in effect, allowed us to exist in our own echo chambers or filter bubbles. We now receive the news we want to receive. It’s based on opinion and is distributed by people that often share our similar outlooks. The ultimate result is that we become tribal, frightened of another point of view or a different value system. Unable to reach across any barrier in a respectful way and discuss complicated and painful issues with dignity. The American media institutions have allowed themselves to put ratings first and serious analysis second, the result is that they not only perpetuated this surprising result, but were also unable to see their own short coming. It is never my position to preach, my role in society must remain neutral. I was trained as a cultural provocateur to stimulate respectful debate , to bring all ides to the center and embrace the shared experience. By humanizing statistics I hope we can make more compassionate decisions. Now is the time for unity wether we agree with Donald Trumps controversial rhetoric or not, now is the time for compassionate understanding, and now is the time to re-assess how we communicate and how we tell the important stories of our era."
There is no neutral. There never has been. There is idleness and there is action. Platon claims neutrality when he himself sees things that should change and end, but he seems to have no real opinion about why or how... What good is that?
I'm struck by how much I agree with his aesthetics and how much I detest his rigidly centrist politics.
*for more analysis on Transformers, check out Lindsey Ellis' youtube series on the franchise.