August 24th, 2011
12:48 PM ET

Photographing Gadhafi up close

Moammar Gadhafi. (Courtesy: Platon)

Most people with one word names are rock stars - Bono, Madonna, Cher.

Meet Platon. He's not a rock star in the traditional sense, but he is a star photographer. His specialty is capturing the essence of world leaders in a single frame.

At the UN General Assembly in 2009, Platon photographed Moammar Gadhafi. Here's what Platon had to say about that strange experience. You can watch my interview with Platon on Sunday, September 4 at 10am ET/PT.

Gadhafi chose, arguably, the worst moment to sit for me....Obama was making his first address to the General Assembly as president of the USA. So he was still regarded, at this point, as some kind of political messiah.

I was just a few feet away from the podium where Obama was actually speaking. And I was surrounded back stage with all Obama's security guys, the White House Secret Service sniffer dogs, the medic teams. Hillary was there. Rahm Emanuel, Axelrod.

And it's a very confined space. And at the end of the corridor, I saw this giant crowd swell of about 200 people coming toward us. The White House guards started panicking –talking into their sleeves. A sense of real tension was emerging.

In the middle of the crowd swirl was Gadhafi. And he was marching in slow motion with this defiant spirit. He was surrounded by female bodyguards dressed head to foot in green military clothing. I mean it was a scene from a James Bond movie. It was his Amazonian Guard.

So he walked right up to me and sat for me, as if saying, I will sit for a portrait on American soil right under the nose of the American administration while Obama is actually making a speech.

And that's when I photographed him in his regalia.

He wore this sort of porkpie hat that tamed his wild hair. He had these incredible chocolate robes.

People say to me, "Is he crazy? Is he mad?"

He may well be those things. But he also may well be the smartest person in the room. And - and I don't think he's to be underestimated.

And I remember...experiencing a very chilling moment where I heard news that a colleague of mine and someone I knew called Tim Hetherington, the photojournalist and great filmmaker, had been killed in Libya covering the carnage that Gadhafi had essentially created.

And I remember when I got the news in my studio. I was printing a picture of Gadhafi, life size, to improve the skin tones. And it was so chilling to hear this news that this great
colleague of mine had tragically passed away.

And then here was Gadhafi still here, defiantly staring at me in the face in my studio. It was a very chilling moment and a reminder that I get to spend these intimate moments with people who are responsible for so many people's lives.

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Topics: GPS Show • Libya • Perspectives • Photos

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Gaddafi has striking features. He looks scary! I wouldn't want to be anywhere near him.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  2. keosaengsay

    he is going to meet with Saddam Hussen .Osama Bin ladin before Alah Mohamad

    August 24, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  3. keosaengsay

    he is going to meet with Saddam Hussen .Osama Bin ladin before Alah Mohamad .They never learn never hear or see the salvation from Jesus Christ the son of God

    August 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  4. Craig

    My Grandma has a set of curtains just like that!!

    August 25, 2011 at 12:38 am | Reply
  5. r.ortiz

    this man was a class act, showing off his robes and trying to empress the world with his phony rule of law, he does not realize how many people died under this monster good ridence.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  6. lachman

    As the saying goes, "barking dogs seldom bite#, in the same way this master, ruthless dictator proved exactly like a great coward, running for his and his family's life, when he saw that the rebels were reaching Tripoli, his boasting that he would die or fight till the end, proved to be a great lie, this should be a lesson to the existing dictators like Fidel Castro and his brother, Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales, Al- Assad, etc, that good always triumphs over evil in the end.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:37 am | Reply
  7. adam

    No matter how you put it, he is for sure crazy. He is as crazy as any other leader in the Middle East. Remember, all the Middle East leaders came to power at the same period of time, 40 years ago. They were installed and kept under the protection of the American and European powers. Now we just have to sit and wait to see what kind of power is going to be in the Middle East for the next 40 to 60 years. These demonstrations won't change much, just the face of the leader.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  8. NW1000

    The poor man looks like a camel's rear end, up close.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  9. ranger830

    Get a clue he,s not in Libya!!!!!!! I saw this guy working in the dunken doughnuts in Columbus GA. LOL!!!

    August 28, 2011 at 11:19 am | Reply
  10. ranger830

    Would you like two for one my friend I make you very good deal!!!!!!

    August 28, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply

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