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.


For What It's Worth


Image courtesy of Jim Bourg/Reuters

Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington were killed yesterday in Misrata, Libya. I didn't know Tim. I respected his work and how he went about creating it. I did know Chris. He was a friend and a man I deeply admired.

Chris was a kind and generous person. He was a "working intellectual", which is to say he could speak with great insight on the arts, politics, and world events (in an academic manner), with a priceless knowledge gained through real world experience.

Chris was the rare bird who could lecture on the founding of Liberia, give insight into the current political situation (with first person antidotes of the principles), and offer opinions on where it went wrong, while at the same time showing timeless, riveting images of the resulting chaos.

That's the kind of talent that demands the attention of both would-be presidents, and jaded press corps (as you can see above).

Chris had mastered the greatest feat of photojournalism. Which is not to make great images or tell compelling stories (he was smart, had a great eye, and wasn't afraid of hard work, so in I guess you could say that part came naturally to him). Chris managed to make images that spoke wholly of the people in his photographs. He removed himself from the equation, his work was about others, yet at the same time he made images that completely revealed himself.

Call it a Zen thing.

There are some things, that once seen, demand a response from the viewer. That's why people often avert their eyes when they see a beggar. I think that's why the priest(?) crossed the road when he was coming across the naked and dying man in the parable of the Good Samaritan. By refusing to look upon the man, he could avoid troubling himself. Whereas the Samaritan, upon fully seeing the man, properly responded to his plight.

I know it's not much. I know it's little comfort to the families, but for what it's worth, I think that's some of the motivation for people like Chris and Tim.

I stumbled across Chris a few days after Katrina had ripped up New Orleans. The details are a bit hazy, something to do with a crippled or demented old man, stranded, left to fend for himself in the middle of a flooded neighborhood, perhaps dead or close to it. I think the request for help came from neighbors or a church group. We arrived at the address in separate boats. There was no response to our knocks. The place seemed abandoned. Chris insisted on a thorough search and I seem to remember glass being broken. Like I said, details are hazy.

Thankfully the man had evacuated. The house was empty.

A note of apology was left.

Regardless, Chris was the guy who refused to look the other way. He was, in a very real sense, the Good Samaritan. He made a choice in his life to be a witness, to not only help others to act, but to act himself.

It's no accident the Greek root for the word witness is martyr.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of both Chris and Tim. My prayers are with their families.


The Rose

"The Rose, Beijing, 1989" by Kenneth Jarecke/Contact

Normally, as a photojournalist, you try to fade into the background. You have to be in the room, but you can't be part of the show. Tricky. Self-promotion is another tricky skill. It's pretty much the opposite of the cloaking device we normally try to deploy. Few great photographers enjoy both skills. Some do, like David Hume Kennerly, or Vincent Laforet. They can make a great image and then make sure it gets seen. This is a skill I admire, but sadly don't share.

That said, let me say with all humility, that this image is a keeper. It's a real piece of history captured on a 35mm slice of Kodachrome 200.

See, now I feel all uncomfortable.

It was early in the morning during the first big week of the Tiananmen Square student protests. There were about a million people demonstrating at that point and the rest of the world was starting to take notice.

I was working with an Australian photographer that day.

I remember we'd just left a hotel where we caught some breakfast. We were walking east along Chang'an Avenue towards the Square and came across a huge crowd mingling around some government bureaucrat housing. It was hard to see what was going on. When we managed to make our way to the front, we found this lone hunger striker sitting in silent protest in front of a row of (I believe) PLA soldiers.

I'd photographed this guy the previous two days. At that time he was pretty much on his own. Now he had a following. They didn't want to let us inside their makeshift security perimeter. It took some negotiation, err, heartfelt pleading, but they eventually relented.

I think they made us take turns. I don't quite remember, but once I got inside, I worked this scene with a 200, 85, 35 and a think this frame was made with a 28mm lens. I shot vertical, horizontal, centered, and framed to the left and the right. This scene could have been published a hundred different ways. I made so many versions you probably could have done a tri-fold. I used Kodachrome 200, two kinds of Ectachrome (an E-6 film that allows for quicker processing) and maybe even Kodachrome 64. If I had some Polaroid, or Tri-X, I would have shot that too.

Usually, you don't really know if you made a good frame. This wasn't one of those times.

It was a double-truck in Time the following week. I think the version they used was centered to the left and made with the 85 or the 200mm.

This view, straight forward, clean, no gimmicks, is the best. The drum scanned K-200 just sings.

I saw this guy a few days later. He was collapsed and rolled up in a blanket. There was no way I could get anywhere near him again. I have no idea whatever happened to him.

I think, "The Rose" is an apt name for this image.

Here's the link. Give a thought to purchasing this print or one of the nine others.

Thank you.