Benjamin Netanyahu Is Not in the Mood for a Portrait

Photographer Platon on how he shot a difficult portrait of the Israeli prime minister

banner_netanyahu.jpg
Platon / The New Yorker

Three years ago, as he was wrapping a photo shoot with Michelle Obama for Time magazine, the British portrait photographer Platon made a final request. "Right, my love," he said. "I want your soul. Give it to me now." As he remembers it, she did, and with his next click Platon got his cover shot.

That brazen demand gets at the paradox of his every assignment: In order to create iconic images of the world's most public figures, he must first conjure their most private selves. Such was his mission during a 2009 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, when he photographed 49 heads of state for The New Yorker (where he's been a staff photographer since 2008). That five-day shoot yielded a portfolio of arrestingly intimate images—highlights include a beaming Jacob Zuma, a snarling Muammar Qaddafi, and a coolly defiant Hugo Chávez—which he later collected, along with previous portraits of international leaders, in his second book, Power.

This past spring, Platon had the chance to revisit one of his subjects when Vanity Fair commissioned him to photograph Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Only when he arrived in Israel did he learn of a personal loss that had sent the prime minister into mourning and their shoot off-schedule. Below, Platon shares a portfolio from that trip and his earlier sitting with Netanyahu, accompanied by the story of how he captured a powerful man at a vulnerable moment—and still made him look good.


NetanyahuScrapBookFinal.jpg

Read past First Drafts from Wilco, Natasha Trethewey, Stephen King, Christo, and others.

Presented by

Alex Hoyt is a freelance writer and digital illustrator whose work has appeared in The AtlanticNational Geographic, and Architect.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In