The Clatter about Klamar

For those of you who aren't big into the photo world, lately a particular group of pictures has created quite a buzz. Joe Klamar, a photographer with an incredibly successful 20 year career may have just taken the worst pictures of his life. So who cares, right? Photographers have off days and take bad shots every now and again. But when the job on the table is photographing the US Olympic Athletes, you don't screw it up. So I've been reading all the comments (and making plenty of my own) about the images. If you go to the guys website you can see, he doesn't suck. But it looks like he sent an intern in to this gig, photographing some of the most accomplished Americans. What is blowing everyone's minds is how could this photographer shoot people who have worked so hard their entire lives for this moment like bad senior portraits?

Here is the Kate Take: This is not what he shoots. If you go to Klamar's website to view his award winning, internationally published, work you don't see ANYTHING like this. To be well rounded in photography you have to shoot everything all the time. That is just not the way this industry works. What we are taught to do, conditioned by art buyers, agents, producers, etc, is to master one look. Make it synonymous with our names and success will come. So if you call a photographer at the top of his or her game, make sure you are calling because what you need is a shot that they take.

The AFP decided to send in one of their top guys to this. They thought, "hey! Let's send Joe! He's amazing!" they didn't think, "which of our photographers is going to roll with the punches and be prepared for anything" since they clearly didn't have the right idea of what this event was (as was made clear by Joe's statements post-shoot, “I was under the impression that I was going to be photographing athletes on a stage or during press conference where I would take their head shots for our archives,” he explained. “I really had no idea that there would be a possibility for setting up a studio.” It was the first time AFP had been invited to participate in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Media Summit) this is a miscommunication that destroyed a photographers reputation.

The article the AFP put out for their damage control made it even more clear, using the pitch "we love these photos.... they are just what we wanted... yup! We're very happy!!" I hate to be Debbie Downer here but no, I'm sure the AFP isn't happy. But I'm sure Joe is even more upset. As a photographer, we know when we take crap pictures. Joe is the one who has to live with this. I didn't know who he was until I saw these shots, many others are in the same boat. We only know him as the photographer who took the worst portraits of Olympians ever. He knows that is what we are all thinking.

Joe is a master of his shot, which now, I have to wonder, is he just getting lucky? Because of these images, a photographer I otherwise would have thought had a great eye I know think gets lucky. I think he puts the biggest CF card he has in that camera and holds the shutter down taking as many pictures as he can before the camera has to process it. One must be good, right? How else can we excuse the way he doesn't look through the lens and see how horrid the angles he is shooting are? That there is ZERO connection between subject and photographer?

In my imagination, I see a photographer showing up unprepared and trying to fake it till he makes it. Jumping around, making a big production about how he is shooting and paying no attention to what he is shooting. Bravo for taking risks but if the angles don't work, try another!

So form your own thoughts... take a look at these images and let me know, do you think this is just breaking the mold brilliance or are they crap pictures? This is the first page Google Images search...

JoeK