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US Olympic Team Portraits Come Under Scrutiny

Photographer Joe Klamar has been receiving some criticism over his portraits of the US Olympic Team that many believe could have been done better. Most of the criticism, as you would imagine, comes from photographers who believe they could have done a better job representing the athletes. And with access to these athletes for photographic purposes being so restricted, it’s understandable that photogs would get upset over sub-par portraits.

You can see the full 35-photo gallery over on the CBS News website, but what’s your take on the photos? Do they deserve the negative attention they’re getting, or do they represent the US Olympic Team just fine? Let us know in the comments down below.

(via Solstice)


Image credits: Photographs by Joe Klamar


 
  • Martin M.

    I hate to be critical, because I hate for my own work to be taken out of the context of the creative discussions and decisions that led up to the final product. That being said, however, I do feel like these have a decidedly amateur look about them. I would say that reflects more on the Art or Creative Director, than on the photographer. Just my opinion…

  • Ranger 9

    I can understand a lot of pros and pro-wannabes being upset by these — they are not the “heroic” or “iconic” approach that would seem obvious to formula-driven photographers.

    But I think I understand what the photographer and sponsors were trying to do: produce photos with a more vernacular, “de-skilled” look that will look real and authentic to viewers in the athletes’ own age group. Think about the deliberately non-slick images that American Apparel uses, or the not-quite-fashion photos seen in magazines such as ‘Intersection’ — this is a visual language designed to speak to Facebook-centric young fans and tell them, “Yes, we’re talking to you, these athletes are people like you, we want you to be interested in them and appreciate them.”

    The challenge to shooting in this vernacular style is that it’s easy to fall off the tightrope and come up with a photo that just looks incompetent, and I see a few examples of that here… but overall I think the approach works. If you still don’t get it, just keep repeating to yourself: “Different is the new normal…”

  • jeffkingphoto

    O.M.G. Terrible!

  • Ranger 9

    Ibid: Having followed up on jraff’s comment by looking at the Canadian team’s photos, I’d have to say their photographer did a better job of balancing on the cliff-edge between being “edgy” and just looking sloppy. But I still think Klamar’s approach is legit and salute him for hanging it out and going for something non-obvious.

  • http://twitter.com/bibalukas Lukas Biba

    Yep

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1336050111 Myles Rothacker

    When its this bad you have to ask what kind of restrictions he may have had. Maybe he was having a very bad couple of days but these are horrific and give professional photographers a black eye. They need to be reshot.

  • Tammy

    Theres no excuse for this!! If you are lucky enough to be chosen to photograph these awesome athletes, you sure as heck should be able to produce awesome photos!!!!! These look like pictures I took 10 years ago, before digital, and on my first day of training!! Hopefully these are not their official Olympic pictures!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jens-Hamada/100003300254445 Jens Hamada

    well i could do at least as good…. and im not a portrait shooter at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664832250 Brady Angus Thomas

    While those photographs are beautiful…I don’t think they were taken on a limited media summit day, so the circumstances were obviously different, and thus can’t be compared fairly.

  • JD23

    And I call American Apparel and tell them constantly to hire a good photographer.
    The guy is a Sports shooter and doesn’t know diddly about lighting. But as a AP photographer….I would think that would be in the job description. I do wedding,portrait, and fashion but I can take a decent action shot.

  • denisbalibouse

    I happen to know Joe and he is one of the best news and sport photographer I know. He was in Central Europe until recently and took over the position in LA. He works for AFP not Getty. Getty distribute AFP. He has his own style, very different from all others. I don’t know his background in studio photography but some of the comments lack respect to him and due to the condition of the shooting that we don’t know. Did he have enough lights ? an assistant ?
    Sometime you can be the best on a ski slope, a ice hockey ring or a soccer pitch and feel lost in a studio with all the lights and having to deal with someone. Remember that in news photography we don’t usually interact with our subject.

  • Scott M

    Looks like the US Olympics team is shopping for photogs on Craigslist….

  • meliaphoto

    Having been a self employed pro photographer for over twenty years, I find it very sad to see such poor standards of work such as this being published. Yes, we can criticise the photographer for not being straight with the client in saying that this is out of his league and coming up with such dire results, but we must also be critical of the commissioner as they obviously weren’t qualified to place the commission and we must also be critical of the person who approved the shots for publication. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1254412080 SherieMikenaj Lehman

    Does PnS sound familiar?

  • http://www.facebook.com/miksstudio Michael Dixon-Brooks

    The one with ripped seamless, I wonder if he expected it to be fixed in Post, but doesn’t account for posing and lighting. I’m not sure I could do any better but would expect better from the official photog.

  • mister blobby

    Um … Did he only use a hot shoe flash on these?

  • http://twitter.com/kyrkhanarip kirk benton

    I could take a better photo with one light, a light stand and an umbrella. Mainly because that’s all I have, but its not too difficult to avoid getting the freaking side of the seamless paper in the shot…. Ugh.

  • http://twitter.com/gabesturdevant gabe sturdevant

    I could take a better photo with one light, a light stand and an umbrella. Mainly because that’s all I have, but its not too difficult to avoid getting the freaking side of the seamless paper in the shot…. Ugh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1254412080 SherieMikenaj Lehman

    I’m sorry, these photos do not do justice to athletes that have spent many years and long hours in training to represent their country and who have achieved a life long goal. There are few personalities in these photos, most are abstract looking which depersonalizes the athlete’s gain, I feel, and a few of them would possibly make good ads as a flash of the screen to gain interest but you have to admit some of them look like flash photos in a family photo file. I am not a professional photographer but even as an amateur I really try posting only my best work. Makes me wonder why CBS posted these.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1254412080 SherieMikenaj Lehman

    Most of the photos have no mood, no personality, and that is what separates a great photog from a good photog.

  • sarah debol

    how unprofessional. i don’t have much experience with artificial lighting but even i know that you don’t use just one because you lose detail in the face. these are awful..

  • sarah debol

    how unprofessional. i don’t have much experience with artificial lighting but even i know that you don’t use just one because you lose detail in the face. these are awful..

  • http://twitter.com/PhotogPhillip Phillip Pessar

    I take lots of photos of homeless guys downtown with inexpensive point and shoot cameras from Goodwill. Some of the guys like to take a few shots with the camera and its always interesting to see the photos they take of each other and of me, all of which have been much better than the photos shown above.

  • http://twitter.com/PhotogPhillip Phillip Pessar

    I take lots of photos of homeless guys downtown with inexpensive point and shoot cameras from Goodwill. Some of the guys like to take a few shots with the camera and its always interesting to see the photos they take of each other and of me, all of which have been much better than the photos shown above.

  • http://twitter.com/bgarnerphoto Brad Garner

    Well, it makes me feel better about my own portraiture.

  • http://twitter.com/bgarnerphoto Brad Garner

    Well, it makes me feel better about my own portraiture.

  • Goose43

    They remind me of “school picture day” when I was in junior high.

  • Mark Williamson

    Really poor images. I assume that the photographer had been briefed on the shoot, and if so then he should have prepared and done a test shoot for each shot. I appreciate that this is not his field, and maybe the blaim lies with the people who commissioned him. This is why different photographers specialise in different fields.

  • http://www.facebook.com/xsportseeker Renato Murakami

    Yeah… I know the conditions for the shoot were awful, and apparently problems happened during the shoot. But imho, pics like these… you just don’t publish.
    I mean, we all take bad pics. But publishing them when they look this bad is a disservice to both the photographer and the subject.
    I fail to see the logic behind publishing these photos… was it live streaming or something? Was it urgent? I mean, some of the problems could be corrected there…

  • http://www.facebook.com/samscholes Sam Scholes

    Those portraits are AWFUL!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/samscholes Sam Scholes

    The job of a professional is to make amazing photos every time. That’s what they get paid to do. If Joe wasn’t the right person for the job then he should have declined the work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samscholes Sam Scholes

    hahahaha Now that is sad! Good comparison.

  • DB

    As
    a photographer, I’m shocked these photo’s were even allowed to be released as
    they are horrible. Sure Joe is a sports photog, but no excuses.
    So much is wrong with lighting, angle, emotion, posing…a pro regardless of style or genre they usually shoot shouldn’t blow it this bad. Gotta be honest, not sure
    why the committee selected Joe to shoot in the first place as I’m not that impressed by Joe’s previous catalog of work. With so many talented and amazing photogs available, this was a tragedy and hopefully will never happen again. I call for a re-shoot to replace these images both for the athletes sake as well as the team.USA.

  • Rvp

    Maybe this photographer was blind or looking to bring the USA the gold medal in worst images ever.

  • http://twitter.com/mnsmirnoff Manuel Smirnoff

    I wonder how many of the posters here who commented on “those photos” in the linked gallery realized they were looking at the work of several different photographers? To my eye, none of them, from any of the photographers, are that great, and it makes me wonder what the limitations of the situation were. For instance, it looks like all of them had to use rather ugly harsh sidelighting. I wonder if the room was five feet deep and they were all given the same small, harsh lights to work with. I can easily see some Olympic a-hole saying “Give the photogs that closet to work in, and steal a couple of lights from the TV guys for them to work with.”

  • Wallerus

    I’m guessing an uncle with a DSLR and a home studio shot these? They’re alright, but not a rep of our nation’s photo skills

  • Big Ian

    I would like to thank Joe Klamar for making me realise what a fantastic photographer I am, and I’m sure 1/2 of the earths population could shoot better shots than this rubbish

  • Mike

    I’m not a photographer or a graphic designer or an artist. I’m just the consumer, and despite my lack of training or experience, even I think these photos are a little underwhelming. As a consumer, as with any product/service, I don’t really care about the situation, that he had “little time” or “not the right back drop” or numerous other comments I’ve been reading here. Respect for a service/goods provider is given in the form of prompt payment and repeat business. Not understanding for the “difficulties” faced.

  • kyoshinikon

    I am a press/sports photographer and all I can say is ICK! Lighting in all of em are awful, the shadows are everywhere. The backdrops are pretty bad too. These are so bad even instagram couldn’t fix em. Wonky foreshortening on the gymnast… In fact who the hell uses a wideangle to shoot portraits?

  • Mary Smith

    I’d like to know who hired this guy and how he got this kind of access. Didn’t anyone check his previous work? As a photographer myself and speaking for others, we’d all love to have access to this kind of shoot and I wouldn’t expect to be considered as a possible candidate to do this shoot without being interviewed and having my work researched. I have to say I think it’s appalling that this guy couldn’t even change the paper and used it as it was….all torn up and creased. Unbelievable.

  • Mary Smith

    Even with the paper ripped there is always PHOTOSHOP to correct those problems.

  • Mary Smith

    hahahahahahaaa

  • don3

    The photographs are really mediocre … of people who are not mediocre.

  • buddy

    OMG…I’m an amateur photographer…and I would never post those. Specially of an Olympic team…those athletes work hard…and this guy shows them off in a horrible and disrespectful way. Fire him.

  • http://twitter.com/JonathanSCE Jonathan Yao

    I feel that the photographer were literally a few speedlights short of a studio.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jlguernsey Jeanne Larson Guernsey

    Those pictures are horrible! They need to get a real photographer and do them over. My 14 year old son could do 100 times better than that with his DSLR.

  • Joe Schmoe

    What…? Is this another one of those “artistic statements”? This looks like the photographic equivalent of Metallica’s “St. Anger” album – only that one was done on purpose. I’m lost here. And yes, even I could have done them better. Any Joe Schmoe at Sears could have done a better job – meaning more standard and covering the basics. Again, maybe this is some sort of statement and I’m too thick to get it. After watching some of the qualifications it’s already clear that the Russians and Chinese will mob the floor with us – so maybe this is another hint at that?

  • Tito

    He shoots likes this at a local wedding and he answers to Uncle Vito!!!

  • http://twitter.com/anthonylukefoto Anthony Luke

    These images are complete and utter crap! There is no reason a “professional” should produce such abismal images under ANY circumstances. I have had very little time to shoot portraits on occasion and NEVER produced anything so bad as these images.

  • http://twitter.com/valE1014 Val E1005

    Reading these comments, makes me glad. Glad that so many photographers have never had a, on the fly, shoot go bad. Looking at many of the others photos you can see there were definitely challenges. To me, ultimately its up to the editors/producers, perhaps might of consider exploring all options.
    Beside it is only one media outlet, not the “official” Program.
    All I can say (tongue in cheek) it’s Obama fault.