The famous photographer known for his work with world leaders and celebrities shared stories and perspective.
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
This was just one of the many riveting quotes Platon presented on Thursday, October 30 as part of Malvern’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
On his way to photograph Mark Zuckerberg, Platon noticed that all of the workers on the campus of Facebook’s headquarters were under the age of twenty-five and dressed casually in sweatpants.
There was graffiti all over the walls outside, but it was not disrespectful in any way. It was all just the writing of people expressing their feelings and opinions. It was there that Platon saw the quote, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
Platon is the third speaker to come to Malvern Prep as a part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. According to an email from Christian Talbot to faculty, a number of attendees told him that Platon was the best of the three speakers so far. Known around the world for his photography, Platon takes pictures of a vast range of people from Willie Nelson to Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama to a homeless woman from Moscow named Lola.
Platon said that pictures appear on two levels: the visual level, which is what is shown in the picture, and the deeper level which contains the meaning and story behind the picture.
Platon showed a notable photograph of Edward Snowden, an American computer professional who leaked private information of surveillance programs run by the NSA, hugging an American flag. He said that the picture has been seen before on the cover of Wired magazine, but he never told the story behind it in a public speaking event before the Malvern presentation.
Platon explained the lengthy process of planning for this meeting, traveling to Russia, and all of the events that led up to actually meeting the secretive Snowden.
Platon stated he had one big question for Snowden: “Why did you do it?” According to Platon, Snowden responded, “A courageous person is someone who can realize the brightness it takes to distinguish right from wrong and seize the opportunity to make the right choice.”
According to Platon, Snowden did not release the NSA’s secret files for someone or against someone else, but to do what he thought was right, and what a courageous person would do.
Snowden told Platon, “Do not be bogged down by labels of traitor and patriot, but do what you think is right.”
Before Platon spoke, the winners of the Malvern photography contest talked about their pictures.
The contest was open to all students and faculty members. The rules were simple: take a picture of something that shows Malvern to you.
The first winner to speak was Cullen Robinson ‘17. Robinson said he entered the contest because “[he] really thought all of [Platon’s] pictures were really cool. He could really display an emotion with the picture, which is incredible.”
“So I wanted to try that and see what I could do with a camera,” said Robinson.
His winning picture showed the swim team from two years ago celebrating in the water after winning the championship and going undefeated.
“It was really cool to see, and go to all the meets, how they all bonded together, really shared in the brotherhood, and won together,” said Robinson.
Champ Doyle ‘20 spoke about his picture from a video that he had previously recorded because he could not attend the event. Doyle’s picture was taken from below the statue of Mary on campus and showed the statue, grass, and the sky. Doyle said he took the picture “seven times, from seven different angles.”
The faculty winner, Mrs. Colleen Lewis of the Counseling Department, spoke about her picture. It showed Zamir Shelton ‘18 and Yaseen Thomas ‘17 at the Malvern train station.
In an interview, Lewis said she entered the competition because her dream job in high school was to be a National Geographic photographer.
She said she did not become a photographer because she didn’t think she had the bravery that is needed to be an excellent photographer.
Lewis told the audience that her picture was inspired when she saw Zamir Shelton ‘18 run into chapel late after he had missed his first train in the morning. She said, “It would be an interesting picture that’s very quintessential to Malvern, but not one that is often seen.”
She went on to say she took the picture at the train station, while Yaseen said he was getting ready for the “real picture”. She said she wanted to “show people a little bit more about what happens with some of the commitments and sacrifices people make to come here.”
As a prize for the competition, the winners received a gift card to Wawa or Starbucks and a signed copy of Platon’s book.
According to Talbot’s email, the 2015 speaker at Malvern for the Distinguished Speaker Series will be Pablo Torre. Mr. Torre is an American sports writer and ESPN columnist. He is also an alumnus of Regis High School in New York City, where Mr. Talbot formerly taught.
John McGlinn ’18 also contributed to this story.