Thursday, July 12, 2012

Joe Klamar, what's the fuss?

From the, "what the..?" department
If you don't know who Joe Klamar is you probably don't follow current photo news (or don't care to). So before we even get into this post here are a few links to follow to catch you up on the latest hot photo topic.
 To get an idea of what a typical 'media day' shooting scene is like for these photographers read this article. You'll get a sense of the pressure these photographers are under.
Finally, here are a number of photos taken from the same event Joe Klamar was hired to shoot. The slide show also contains the work of other photographers who were under the same pressure and the same shooting constraints as Joe. As you look through them note the names and quality of the images. You will also notice that not all of Joe Klamar's photos are horrendous.

What prompted me to post about the photographer and his images was not the alleged quality of the images or the lack of constraint in releasing them publicly. Instead I want to talk about the comments other readers are leaving on these sites in regards to Klamar's photos.

One after the other the discussion is about one of several topics;
  • I would have shot it better
  • I can't believe they released these bad photos
  • The images are a disgrace to our athletes
  • The images are artistic interpretations
  • The images make a non-conformist/anti-establishment statement
For the most part the comments tear at the credibility of Joe Klamar as a professional photographer while at the same time expounding technique and doing a little grandstanding on the part of the commentator. Although Mr. Klamar has released a statement regarding the quality of the images what hasn't been discussed is that all this controversy has landed Mr. Klamar a position in photographic history.

Whether the images were created purposely or accidentally to be this bad will forever be the topic of contemplation. So too will the reasoning behind why the editors chose to release these images to the public. Specially when the name behind them is as auspicious as Getty Images. You can also contemplate why the photographer dared to submit these. But the truth of the matter is that they did get submitted, they did get approved and they did get released to the public.

It's interesting to note that while I was reading some of the comments I actually Googled some of the names of many of the people who commented negatively. None of them have a name of their own, meaning they are no one of particular importance to the photographic community. They're either local wedding/portrait photographers or hobbyists. Some didn't even have a background in photography which I thought was sad.

Not a single name stood out as having any photographic credibility. This reminds me of the saying, "everyone's a critic" but it also reminds me of the saying about opinions being like a certain orifice; everyone has one.

I'm of the opinion that if a comment doesn't move a conversation forward or add something new it's not worth commenting. Why repeat what ten other people before you wrote? Personally I love the controversy these images stirred up. I love that this guy has found his place on the map. I can guarantee he's going to profit from this, in one way or another. I predict his fifteen minutes of fame will go a long way regardless of my personal feelings about this series of images.

We need a few more Joe Klamars to kick the hornet's nest and get people talking.


  1. Hello Chuck, thank you for this well researched and insightful blog post! Very interesting indeed. I have not checked out all the links you posted yet, but did see some of the images that were being criticized. I, too, was curious about all the information that was being left out (photographer constraints, who was on the approving committee, etc.)

    Thank you for pointing out who the critics were, or in this case, were not. I think the media is ridiculous, in any case, and I just know this photographer will get the opportunity to showcase his talent. There is NO such thing as Bad Publicity! Ha ha.


  2. Call me crazy, I like Klamar's Phelps photo. It's original and inviting.

    People who are used to doing portrait shoots and used to the lighting required are, of course, going to be better at it than a photog who does sports action photography. Also, photogs who have a wedding business or do studio portraiture of course get the luxury of photoshop, which a Getty photog or any other photog shooting in a photojournalistic style do NOT get to do. Now, take the average wedding photographer and ask them to shoot a horse race or a hockey game? Likely, they won't excel at that task.

    Klamar is a photojournalist used to shooting red carpet events, not a studio photographer. He apparently was told that he'd be shooting the athletes on a stage, like at a press conference, not a studio setup. I'd like to see how these critics "who can do better" perform without the correct equipment and no notice. Oh, and they get about 3 minutes to compose the subject and shoot.

    I think some of his shots are fantastic. Others? Not so much, but more not my style than "bad photograph" because photography is art, which is subjective. What you think is a bad photograph is your perception. I may think it's fantastic. Imagine how boring photography would be if no one ever broke the "rules"???

    And, from this slideshow, I think some of these photographs are just that, fantastic.



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