1: The famed photographer Platon’s signature style is to shoot his subjects so close we can see their pores.
“Platon has photographed every sitting U.S. president from Jimmy Carter through Barack Obama. He has done multiple portraits of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, well before they were presidential candidates,” writes Priya Parker in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.
“He has photographed world leaders from Angela Merkel to Tony Blair to Ban Ki-moon, the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations, and infamous despots from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Platon has photographed not only the powerful but also people who have challenged power, from the Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi (while still under house arrest), to Pussy Riot, to protesters in Tahrir Square, to Edward Snowden. And he’s shot hundreds of celebrities, from George Clooney to Yoko Ono to Bono,” notes Priya.
2: What’s most remarkable, though, about Platon is what he gets his subjects to do.
“It is the interest of these leaders, many of whom have press secretaries and image consultants, to show a face they want the public to see,” Priya observes. “It is Platon’s interest to get them to show something else, something real.”
“I start by inviting them to ‘step into my office,” which is funny because I’m usually stepping into their office,” Platon notes.
Then, he breaks out his secret weapon. “He brings a decrepit, falling-apart, white-painted crate for his famous subjects to sit on,” Priya notes. “This old white crate is a box that he’s had every one of his subjects sit on.”
At times, a presidential advance team will look at the box and panic. “We can’t ask him to sit on the box.” Then Platon shares who else has sat on the box. They end up always agreeing.
3: Platon is practicing “displacement,” notes Priya. “Displacement is simply about breaking people out of their habits,” writes Priya. “It is about waking people up from the slumber of their own routines.
As leaders, we are wise to understand the power of displacement, to be intentional about the setting where events are held, and to utilize props and other accessories in service of our desired outcome.
“Platon is displacing his subjects from the context that they’re in and is, through this physical object, connecting them to all the other photo shoots (and therefore people) who have come before them,” writes Priya. “He may have seven minutes with a president, but those seven minutes are going to be defined by his space and context, not theirs.”
Reflection: How might I utilize the power of displacement during an upcoming meeting or event?
Action: Do it.