Platon Pays 'Service' To Fallen U.S. Soldiers at the Milk Gallery
The Iraq war might seem far off to some, but last night it came back into focus under the bright lights of the Milk Gallery, thanks to Platon’s remarkable new series and photo exhibit “Service.” Coinciding with the release of the photo book of the same name, “Service,” the exhibit, features the images Platon began capturing in 2008 after taking over Richard Avedon’s post as staff photographer for The New Yorker. The result is an immersive visual diary of some of the toughest years in modern American history and a testament to the power of the British photographer’s skill.
Many of these photos are already world renowned, and some, like the image of a Muslim mother hugging the gravestone of her son who died in the war, are so powerful they’ve convinced Republicans like Colin Powell to vote Democrat. So, as you might imagine, this was no ordinary gallery opening. In fact, it’d be more accurate to call it a tour de force of emotion—eight years in the making. “I needed time for reflection. With work as serious as this, you need to think about it,” Platon explained when we asked him about the decision to wait eight years to publish all his photos together as one series. “At a time when everyone is spitting information out faster than they’ve had time to get perspective on it, a lot of damage is done with messaging.”
"This image is divided in two halves. The top half is trust, loyalty, love and compassion. The bottom half is pain, loss and tragedy. This is a transference of power from him to her as she confronts us with a forceful message; NO ONE CAN HURT HIM NOW, HES HOME!" Sgt. Tim Johannsen and his wife, Jacquelyne Kay, in a rehabilitation unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.Johannsen spent two-and-a-half years at Walter Reed after losing both of his legs on his second tour in Iraq. 2008.
Given the reaction from the crowd of art lovers who spent just as much time thoughtfully leaning in to the placards as they did standing back to take in the images, Platon’s intended message seemed to land with precision. For the opening, he might’ve swapped out his day clothes for a tailored suit, but his memories from the front lines of conflicts around the world were still fresh in his mind.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the front line of the action—whether it’s in politics or in the way we deal with our military or even human rights work. I just got back from the Congo and I’ve been chased by secret police in Burma so I’ve been in it,” he said. “I’m a street guy. I don’t learn my stuff from books. I have to be there in the front line, meet the people, and feel it. Then I can speak the truth as I really saw it, not as someone told me to see it.” While you might be hard pressed to catch a glimpse of Platon himself before he jets off to capture another war, you have the next several weeks to check out his lauded exhibition.
Come see Platon speak with Elisabeth Biondi, former Visuals Editor of the New Yorker, tomorrow, June 23rd, at 7 PM, in an artist talk at the Milk Gallery. It’s open to the public with RSVP, which you can do here.
Images shot exclusively for Milk by Zlatko Batistich.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Milk Gallery exhibitions.