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Joe Klamar, My Hero

Joe Klamar, works for AFP and made some pictures that some people aren't happy with. Joe Klamar is my new hero.

You can see his portraits of U.S. Olympic athletes here.

You can see some of the discussion here.

Personally, I love these images.

I don’t think Joe was making a artistic or political statement, that would be more insulting than any of the other criticism he’s been getting. He’s a photojournalists not accustomed to doing these type of photo junkets and did the best job he could.

Portrait wise, the shoot didn’t work out as planned, but only because we have this stylized idea of what portraits like these are suppose to look like. Where everyone from the PR person, the photographer, the editor, the publisher and the advertisers share the common goal of properly packaging the merchandise, err amateur athlete.

Ironically, the portraits he captured, coming from a photojournalist background are more truthful, hold greater insight and have more artistic merit than what will be churned out this Olympic cycle by anyone else.

Yeah, they’re hard on the eyes, but that’s beside the point.

Sports Illustrated (emphasis on illustrated) announced another round of layoffs about a week ago, which will mainly affect the photo department. The suits at Time/Warner don’t care, they’ve already decided that Getty can do a better, read cheaper, job for them.

Gannett isn’t sending it’s “A” team of trusted staff photographers to the games as it’s cheaper to send a bunch of hacks who work for a two-bit agency, get paid in peanuts and sign away their copyright.

Gannett and Sports Illustrated have plenty of money. They’ve just made an editorial choice to serve their readers sub-excellent content (Sports Illustrated has offered their columnist millions of dollars to keep from losing them to ESPN).

I know it’s not news here, but this is what you get when you fire everyone that has talent and cares enough to use it… an unintended commentary on the state of the editorial world.

I think it’s also telling, that several commentators here attempted to spread the blame around to;

Lack of post-production… have we really gotten to the point where people think the photographers only job is capturing all the relative elements and handing them off to someone else to reassemble? Here’s an idea, make a good frame to start with. It’s easier now than ever. A lot easier than when Avedon was doing “The Family” or “The American West” (although he did resort to some darkroom trickery in some of his New Yorker work).

Lack of attention on the part of the PR person… as a photographer you’re suppose to be working for yourself and the person that signs your checks (OK your editor, who might not physically sign them), not the PR person. The PR person is the bad guy. They’re the ones who have destroyed the editorial portrait. They’re not your friends. They are working for the people who sign their checks. They have their best interests in mind. They don’t care if you fail, as long as they don’t get in trouble with their client.

The PR people will be the ones who use this to approve every photographer who ever has special access to their clients again. They don’t want to do these junkets (either?), and now they have an excuse not to.

Getty bought and paid for the Olympics, so it’s nice to have this thing slap them in the face.

Right now, photographers are feverishly working on special portfolios of Olympic athletes for Sports Illustrated, Time, and a host of others. It would be fitting, because they’ve done so little to support their own photographers, if four years from now these magazines were instead given a bunch of handouts by the USOC. This way, the USOC and the advertisers wouldn’t have to worry about a photographer not knowing what is expected of them (actually the magazines wouldn’t mind not having to pay for the production themselves either).

Finally, given the continued post-modern collapse of what constitutes a great image, I advise Joe to polish these babies up, maybe hire one of those post-production gurus, and get ready for an free trip to Amsterdam!


btw...I understand the difference between Getty and AFP. If the credit reads, AFP/Getty, than it's Getty's content. Just like if you went to a dealership that sold you a crappy car which had different franchises on it's shingle. The dealership's overall reputation would still be tarnished, regardless of the car's maker.
The point is that all of these "portraits" are contrived and designed to fool the viewer. Telling them that they, by looking at this "portrait", are getting a unique insight into who this person is... that's what portraits are meant to do. The Getty, A.P., or Reuters staffers may have done a technically better job, but Joe Klamar is the only one who made a true portrait.
The portrait of a bored athlete, in a makeshift studio, wishing they were spending their precious time before the London games getting better prepared for their competition.
So yeah, if we're talking about the cover of Parade Magazine (do they still print that?), the other shooters did a better job. Otherwise, not so much.



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Some of the best commentary on this whole "situation" I have read.


Your hero's name should be spelled Klamar.

Kenneth Jarecke

Oh, that's perfect!

Kenneth Jarecke

My sincere apology for originally spelling Joe Klamar's name wrong in this post.

Tom Waugh

Tim gander also cover it here: http://wp.me/pGClg-AZ

kieran doherty

I have certainly covered a fair few similar junkets in my time as a wire photographer, but this Olympic gem of a photocall must have slipped past me in the run up to previous Games'. From painful personal experience I can report that this is pretty much par for the course. I think I and many colleagues made careers from getting clueless PR's out of trouble by finally, excruciatingly managing to produce an image from whatever visual corporate aberration was put in front of us....and simultaneously try and avoid the embarrassment of having it potentially publish....with a byline. That was about ten years ago. Now it's even worse, like an ever decreasing circle, the parameters for photographers being able to do their jobs properly have begun to inexorably and exponentially shrink, up to the point where it became come here, stand there, shoot that, that's all you are getting and don't even think about asking me to ask the client about something more visually interesting because the answer will be no.........but do help yourself to as much tea and coffee as you like before you leave.
Seriously, we shoot what we see, we show it how it is. Let's be realistic, there is no room at these fiascos for interpretation, until now. Whatever Joe's reasons, he showed it how it was. Good on him.


Opinions abound, as does poor grammar and spelling.

John McDowell

These photos are terrible no matter what Joe was trying to do. From the looks of it he's not even a very good photojournalist either. There is no message in photograhy except bad photography. You don't have to purposely try to light portraits in the worst possible way to try to show a lack of non professional studio portrait look. He could have just shot them like a photojournalist with a off camera flash and still done some of the other techniques he did. The only thing he succeeded in doing was making some bad photography and that is the only thing anyone sees. Any message he was trying to send is lost. Sorry Joe, better luck next time.


The "hack" (thanks by the way...) agency you describe does not require anyone to sign away their rights, not sure where you got that information.


"Here’s an idea, make a good frame to start with." And this was not delivered.
Poor arguments here.

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