Canadian Olympic Team Pictures Criticized, Given ‘Gold Medal in Awkward Portraits’


You’re photographing some of the most elite athletes in the world, shortly before they step onto the international stage to compete for glory and gold. So naturally you … make them look kind of funny?

In 2012, it was AFP shooter Joe Klamar, whose strikingly … umm … casual portraits of the U.S. Olympic Team drew widespread howls. Some called the images amateurish and insulting to the athletes; others praised them for dumping cliches and showing the real people struggling to make athletic history.

(Sample comment from our treasured readers: “I think his only lighting source was a table lamp with a 100-watt bulb and no lamp shade.”)

Now, weeks before the Sochi Winter Olympics start in Russia, Canada has sparked its own version of this controversy with a series of portraits of the Canadian Olympics team captured by veteran editorial photographer Jimmy Jeong for The Canadian Press.

Jeong’s choices were unconventional to say the least. He’s done way with the contextual poses, and he gave the athletes no clothes or props to indicate their chosen sport. Instead, they get swirly light patterns, double exposures and a lot of red:





A brief look at Jeong’s online portfolios shows he’s a seasoned shooter more than capable of turning out a pleasing conventional environmental portrait.

So is this new approach a gutsy, creative way to invoke the speed and motion that mark such sports? Or is it worthy of, as the The Week puts it, “the gold medal in awkward portraits?” Or maybe it’s just been a long, tough, cold winter up there in the Great White North, eh?

(via The Week)

Image credits: All images by Jimmy Jeong/The Canadian Press

  • slownewsday


  • Lionel

    I clicked on an article I didn’t care about and left a comment only to tell people how much I didn’t care.

  • OtterMatt

    Wow. With that level of initiative, it must be hard to wake up every day without swallowing your own tongue.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    I can’t decide if these are awful or awesome.

    It’s like i’m back in time or something look at album art from the 60’s or high school portraits from the 80’s.

  • Jim Macias

    I’m not a fan of gimmicky portraits.

  • ninpou_kobanashi


  • ninpou_kobanashi

    Maybe he wanted some publicity like Joe Klamar?

  • David Liang

    It’s weird I went through his portfolio and generally liked his other environmental portraits, besides the technical they had context and were appropriate for the subject. I can’t see why he’d do random light painting, shutter drags and double exposures for the Canadian team. Coming from a Canadian I’m a little upset…don’t know if I should be, but I do feel that way.

  • Nice

    Just needs an Instagram filter and thats perfect!

  • Fredo

    thought the same :P

  • harumph

    Yeah, they’re awful, but at least he was trying something different. This is a lesson in not showing anyone your failed experiments.

  • Sam Bendall

    Some people just do not know how to do light painting and it’s a shame, but in this instance it’s just one of those, let me bow my head in shame and laugh uncontrollably.

  • Tim

    Am I supposed to think the poses indicate particular sports? Perhaps: Throwing the Tantrum, Bored Constipation, The Lynx Effect, Advertising Match-dot-com and Needing Ibuprofen?

    If so, one-trick shots are a bit shallow.

  • Alex

    I think it’s funny when your a seasoned pro, but really just a one trick pony. This is awful and he knows it. You want to try something new? Test it out. That’s why the best guys never stop testing. This is just amateur work. If it’s not tested, for god sake don’t try it out for the world to see. Just made a mockery out of being “a seasoned pro”

  • Brian Carey

    This is disappointing!

  • orgawka

    I understand the concept and what they tried to do is kinda cool… BUT the concept and what we can see in the pictures is different… the lights painting the picture sounds neat, but… a heart?? really??

  • ChristopherMorris

    I find it interesting that all the trolls are willing to judge someone’s work without knowing the circumstances in which it was shot, or the direction given. Especially, as some have pointed out, this guy shoots good work, regularly. How about people give him the benefit of the doubt, before jumping to any conclusions. The great thing about the internet, it gives photographers an opportunity to help each other out, and create a sense of community. The downside, some people don’t know any way to act, other than a pack of wild dogs.

  • Alex Minkin

    We’ve seen worse. much worse. But we’ve also seen better. Better with minimal effort exerted over what these photographers have done.

  • Dan Hontz

    Well, I don’t care how good/bad the photos are — if you’re writing an article that questions someone’s work, you should at least attempt to contact that person and see what he/she says about it (or say he/she wouldn’t talk to you, if that’s the case). This right here is what sucks about the blogosphere echochamber.

  • trmanco

    That’s an example of light painting gone wrong…

  • Terrance Armstard

    The country’s OLYMPIC TEAM, not some motley crew of everyday athletes. Its the country’s OLYMPIC TEAM. If it was an attempt at self expression, the photos are wonderful. However, if you are doing true environmental portraits of a nations cream of the crop athletes….put your ego and artistic vision on the back burner and give the athletes and the nation something to be damn proud of! THOSE PHOTOS SUCK! They remind me of portraits for organizations that help people with depression and mental issues. By the way, did I mention THOSE PHOTOS SUCK!!

  • Brent

    Still not as bad as the Maple Leafs.

  • Jim Johnson

    The difference is that his portfolio has ENVIRONMENTAL portraits. The photo calls for Olympics teams are more like cattle calls with the athletes photographed in (what amounts to) a small trade-show booth. Each photographer will then get a few minutes with the bored/tired athlete before the athlete is then ushered to the next booth and the next one comes in. And this goes on for hours.

    I was a pro portrait photographer for about 15 years. This sounds like hell to me— almost no time in a terrible environment with an un-interested sitter. No, thank you! It would be almost impossible to get a “good” image from a shoot like that, much less an unique one.

  • johnny vanilla

    It’s intentional and they are pretty awesome, actually. Anyone can shoot a technically correct photo, just look at r/photos on reddit, boring as hell. I like what Jeongs pulled off here.


    Wait wait wait…

    Sample comment from our treasured readers: “I think his only lighting source was a table lamp with a 100-watt bulb and no lamp shade.”

    Here’s a shot with only a 60W table lamp as lighting source….that kind of light can be fantastic.



  • David Liang

    Gregory Heisler does just fine with his portraits for Time. Quite simple and very elegant. So it’s certainly possible to turn something mundane into something visually great. If it’s such a bummer to shoot studio portraits, or that its such a challenge for this photographer, perhaps he shouldn’t have taken the job. Because clearly he’s set himself up to massive criticism by doing something he’s not motivated, equipped or inspired to do.

  • Jim Johnson

    Oh, I completely agree. He was definitely out of his depth.

    My guess is that he did a test run in the studio with models/people comfortable in front of the camera. Then he couldn’t replicate the results because of the time restraints, awkward sitters, and pressure. I am also guessing he is trying to replicate a look that you can only get with post processing.

    Heisler has the right attitude to these kinds of shoots— go simple. Simple will give you something that works, even if it isn’t ground-breaking or stops people dead in their tracks. Personally, I have to take my hat off to this guy for trying something different even if he failed miserably.

  • Liz

    Am I crazy to be slightly offended that only the girls got the cheesy heart thing? I feel it undermines their legitimacy as athletes, aside from the fact that these photos are all horrid.

  • David Liang

    Yeah I’m with you there it definitely takes some courage to try something different, especially knowing there will be a captive audience for the images. I think he did a much better job than the guy that shot the summer US team.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    I think the USA photos and these are “equal”. It looks to me that a client hired a photographer who does great environment work and stuck him in an empty place where he had to create everything. Add a group of awkward (most with bad haircuts and wearing tshirts) subjects, some athletes are great in front of the camera but many feel any time away from the sport is a waste…so some end up on Wheaties boxes and with endorsements and some don’t. Maybe if there was an art director or other creative type in charge it woulda worked. Or maybe he had about 3 minutes to shoot everything so good on him for trying….

  • harumph

    Define “fantastic.” Sorry, but you completely missed focus on that shot. You should take it out of your portfolio. Your other stuff looks much better.


    Fantastic: extraordinarily good or attractive.

    Glad you think my other stuff looks better, thanks. Going to keep that shot in though.

  • Kitsu

    Glowing armpits of doom are fashionably in!


    and HDR.

  • geofflister

    Petapixel is poaching. There are straight portraits on the wire as well and one of these light painted photos ran on the front section of the Globe and Mail (Canada’s national paper).

  • Hank Vlietstra

    I like ‘em – ‘Tis fine!

  • Kay

    Was the “eh” really needed?………

  • Toronto Product Photographer

    The above photo needs a cat in it… awful composition… very fromage