When my kids were about 7 and 9, they had the opportunity to model for photography students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Props, lighting, makeup, sitting around, take No. 21, change of clothes, new idea and so on. They have never looked at a single photograph in the same way ever since.
Now when they browse through a magazine and see a plate of chocolate chip cookies, they know that the photographer painstakingly placed every single chip to make it aesthetically perfect to their artistic eye.
Behind the scenes — the maternity wing of creativity. How often we see the finished project or person and think, “It was easy for them.”
Platon, who displays 150 brilliant portraits of world leaders in his book Power (Chronicle Books), photographed many of them in just a few days at the United Nations building. It took 67 meetings (he counted) with the United Nations in New York to get into the building. When it was set up, they had only two pre-confirmed sittings — the rest were hustled the old-fashioned way.
By far the most intense sitting was of Moammar Gadhafi, who slowly walked in and was followed by at least 200 people, including a team of female bodyguards. According to Platon, “Gadhafi chose the worst possible moment to sit. With his defiant spirit it was like he said, ‘I will sit on American soil while (President Barack) Obama is making his speech.’”
The goal of Platon’s project was to present the international cast of world leaders up close and personal. He warmed up to Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia, through a shared love of The Beatles. Regarding his work, Platon says, “Three percent is photography, and 97 percent is psychology and people skills.”
Behind the scenes — it’s always more than the click of a camera.
In his 80s and walking with a cane, Gehry, award-winning architect and innovator, says he still approaches each project with a new insecurity. In a YouTube video he admits, “It’s almost like the first project I ever did. I approach it with the same trepidations. I get sweats, and I’m not sure where I’m going. If I knew, I wouldn’t do it.”
Behind the scenes. Insecurity. Still.
He works with concrete and steel but understands the language and motion of the curves. He tells Zakaria, “You feel it. There’s movement in inert material, and it doesn’t cost more money to engender some kind of emotional response.”
Gehry’s spectacular Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles took 16 years to build. Reflecting back upon its completion, “What takes over and makes you forget all the trivia is the way the light hits the material, reflections that add a dimension you didn’t have in the models and drawings. That’s how it lives — it becomes a living thing.”
When asked if he gets a little depressed after each project, he responds, “Yes.”
Behind the scenes lies the human condition. Fragile one minute, cocky the next. A messy mixture of fears, doubts, hopes and dreams. It’s the place where we’re stripped naked, alone with the muse, begging to be saved and taking credit when we are.
Behind the scenes — a beautiful place to reside.