The internet is buzzing about these Olympic portraits taken by Joe Klamar for AFP and Getty. Most of the talk is about how unprofessional they look with ripped seamless, rumpled flags and sinister lighting (Reddit thread here). I have to agree, but rather than throw Joe under the bus I think AFP and Getty are to blame for not doing an edit or even tossing the shoot (actually don’t know if that’s even possible). Obviously Joe had his 5 minute sessions with exhausted athletes and failed. So, why not edit them?

There’s some interesting conspiracy theories surrounding the shoot as well. BAG has a post abut how it could have been intentional and meant to poke holes in the idealized portraits we normally see of team USA (here): “I think this subset of photos also take a silent sledgehammer to the jingoistic adulation of the American team, to the extent these athletes serve as a fantasy extension of the dying dream of American worldwide superiority.” Unfortunately, I think the answer is more pedestrian: editors asleep at the switch treating an olympic portrait session like a flickr feed.

You can see the whole take (here). Note: other photographers images are mix in with Joe’s.

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  1. A wise man once said “Its not a sin to take bad photographs its only a sin to show them”.

  2. They are hilariously bad. I think it’s funny no matter whether he meant them to be bad or not. It’s hard to know if it was intentional. A Google image search for Klamar’s pictures shows only standard press photography with no additional lighting so it could very well be the case that he was just in over his head with this assignment.

    If intentional I could read this as a sort of commentary on the state of editorial photography and the undermining of this segment by the amateurs but I really can’t see this as a critique of the idealization of Team USA. In most of the images the athletes themselves don’t look particularly bad if you disregard how bad the photography is.

  3. wow! i can only imagine that in Joe’s mind there was some understanding that post- production work would take place, to clean up the backgrounds, extend the seamless to edge of frame etc. which just didn’t happen. Shame, because it does look bad on him, but yeah, i would say a post/ editing gaff for sure. Still, in my mind, you still gotta shoot a little cleaner to cover your own tail a little better! Maybe a larger backdrop next time?

    • Yeah but let’s not kid ourselves. There’s no amount of photoshop that can turn these images into good photography. I mean the one with the small backdrop is actually one of the better pictures. The poses are also hilarious. I can only assume that the woman in the last picture is part of the team that competes in the YMCA dancing contest. Either that or she’s channelling Jay-Z

      • hahaha, yeah, true ( just trying not to kick a guy when he’s down!) But what really sucks is this is such a great opportunity to produce a killer portfolio of athletes. shame.

        • I do feel a bit sorry for the guy but I don’t want to feel too sorry because I don’t think the whole thing should be taken too seriously. I had to laugh when I saw the pictures the same way I laugh when one of my friends trips and falls on his ass in front of a bunch of people. It’s a bit embarassing and it probably hurt a bit, too, but it’s still funny and laughing about it eases the tension.
          Hopefully in time Klamar can laugh about it himself. He took some awful shots. People laughed. It’s probably a bit embarassing but not the end of the world. Soon it’ll just be yesterday’s newspaper and no one will remember.

  4. When I first saw this I thought it had to be The Onion. Sadly, no.

  5. I’m sure that teenage photographer girl in Napoleon Dynamite shot these…….

  6. I don’t mind the seamless edges being visible. I do mind the sucky lighting and awful direction. JWTF was Getty thinking?

  7. I wonder if I could get hired to go shoot portraits of the photo editor getting fired later this afternoon?

  8. The conspricacy theory makes an interesting commentary and I can envision the editorial piece, but this series is not it.

  9. WTF is the big deal? Maybe, just maybe Mr Klamar thinks that these are great. Maybe it is the best he could do in the time frame allowed. Why people are reading some great conspiracy into this is beyond me. Look around you, there is lousy photography all around. Are Olympians somehow supposed to be protected from a bad shoot? Really? or maybe Klamar was taking the piss and having a jab. Again, so what? Blame all those annoying publicity agents of the athletes for doing a lousy job at not protecting the image of their clients.

    • I totally agree. Just popped in to say exactly that. Without knowing the full details, we can only speculate why these images turned out the way they did.

      Calling Joe Klamar… what’s up?!

    • Sorry to go biblical but when was there at least one shoot everybody wishes did not go public, or at least with your name on it. For all we know, and funnier things have happened, these are not understood because the premise of the shoot is not infront of us. Ease Up.

    • Yes, Olympians should be protected from bad photoshoots. Their time is precious right now as the games approach, and they’ve working hard to represent their country as best they can. The least their PR team could do is select a competent photographer for this high-profile gig. What a waste.

      • Actually, having shot 9 olympians/ paralympians for a Team BP campaign last year, which was for a broadcast ad and print, people need to understand that getting time with these guys is really difficult and often problematic in terms of the where….. and for how long. The logistics are really awful. It is no great surprise that it goes wrong occasionally. Yes, no one should intentionally waste their time, They work very hard……. as do photographers most of the time. Sometimes we are put in positions where it is impossible to do a decent job. Period. If this were the case, he would have better to simply walk off the job, rather than get the backlash he is receiving from other ‘photographers’. I can’t believe I am defending these pictures.

        • I have to agree with Christopher here.
          Judging from the conditions (and the other photographers’ only-marginally-better-work) the whole thing is a setup.
          Bad images of any public figure don’t help that person’s public image so it’s as much the failing of the PRs as it is the photographer, or the producer. PRs often overextend their client’s schedules with unrealistic expectations – 1 amazing, iconic image of an athlete is better than 10,000 shlock images, so go figure.
          That said, ALL of the press photos I’ve seen of the athletes look overblown, over-lit, and overly-ambitious. Having worked with a similar amount of time with a subject, they’d all be better off with a single light, a muslin, and an umbrella and use the 30 seconds they have trying to connect with their subject and get a single amazing frame rather than a gazillion different lighting options with props, flags, rackets, clichéd poses, etc.

        • That is a wonderful campaign. I was wondering who shot it. Well done, Christopher.

  10. It looks like the majority were shot pretty close up with a wide, match that with the weird light placement makes me think the location wasn’t ideal. I’m surprised he didn’t find a good lighting setup that worked and then just stuck with it. It looks like he was stumped for ideas and rushed. Not much planning and certainly no direction or styling went into this, and no post just is the icing on the cake. You’d think that shooting athletes of this caliber there would be a more concerted approach to what they wanted to achieve. I can’t just blame the photographer, I think quite a few people failed (miserably) on this one.

      • i call fail on the organization. i know i can shoot a portrait in 10 minutes because that’s the average attention span of sitters these days. having a good moment, being highly concentrated.. you can take a great portrait in less than a minute, maybe once or twice in your life.. but no serious photographer would ever attempt to shoot 100 of those in a 3-day period.

        • “no serious photographer would ever attempt to shoot 100 of those in a 3-day period.”

          grubernd: Sometimes you just have to make do with what you’re given if you want to get paid.

      • it looks like a complete zoo. I have only sympathy for any photographer actually trying to do something special in that kind of situation. That said, he hardly made the best of it.

  11. I think folks would be digging a bit deep to label this some sort of conspiracy theory, but I agree wholeheartedly with Rob’s thoughts about inattentive editors playing a big roll in this.

    Any halfway seasoned shooter has been in Joe’s shoes before: no time, terrible conditions, less than enthusiastic subjects. But that’s no excuse for the train wreck that was the end result of that day’s work. I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of anyone who played a leadership roll in that mess.

  12. The worst thing about Klamar’s photos is not the un-slick staging, framing and lighting.

    It is not that the athlete’s look bored or stupid. Everyone gets bored and everyone looks stupid most of the time, every first grader knows that. This is especially true when you are asked to do something you consider stupid -like have your portrait made for the umpteenth time on picture day.

    If Mr. Klamar went in with an intellectual undercurrent of “I am going to show these people looking ordinary (i.e. bored out of their brains)” he halfway accomplished that. What he failed to do was make interesting photographs. So it isn’t much of an accomplishment. Instead of de-idolizing them he’s the one who comes off looking lazy and incompetent.

    One can attempt to spin this portfolio as an artistic exercise in debunking heroic iconography, but it just looks like he didn’t fully invest himself in the idea, In fact it sort of comes of as a statement of “I really don’t want to be doing this assignment.”

    So here’s the real problem with Klamar’s portraits: They serially commit the worst sin an artist can possibly commit in their work: they are boring.

    But honestly so is a lot of the very slick and highly produced “official” portraits of athletes and celebrities I see in ads and publications these days, as well as whole lot of “fine art” photography. The reason is the same: I don’t feel like I can get past the photographer saying, “Look at what I can do!”

    As an instructive counter point to this portfolio look at the portraits of ordinary people in Richard Avedon’s “In The American West” or his similar portraits of the famous, infamous and powerful people. Also look at the portrait work of Mike Disfarmer, August Sander and Thomas Struth. Obviously there are many ways to make great and interesting photographs of even ordinary people that do not involve obviously glamorous intricate lighting, staging and heavy handed direction.

    Once upon a time photography seemed to be more of a grown ups game, one where ambitious photographers aspired to be smart and treat their audience as at least equally intelligent. Was that just an illusion, a trick of the light, or is it still true in some small corners of the commercial, editorial and fine art worlds?

    • Sorry Ellis, but I think you’re overthinking this one. Avedon? Come on. This guy is trolling the American public. Who knows, maybe he didn’t want to be there or the catering was substandard? I actually think the photos are a riot. This guy is a contract photographer for AFP and is endorsed by Nikon, something not very many people can achieve. He can shoot. Besides, anyone that gets a bunch of amateurs on the internet calling a professional an “amateur” has done the right thing in my books. I don’t understand why Americans have such a hard time with satire and the black European sense of humour. It’s very Czech/Slovak of him…

      • I know satire and I know boring. These are just boring photos.

        But on the other hand is anyone even paying attention to the photos any of the other photographers made on cattle call day?

        I never said he was unprofessional; I never said he hasn’t earned his measure of respect and accolades: What I’ve seen of his other worktells he does a great job of reportage – but it also seems rather free of satiric intent.

        If anyone was “trolling the American Public” with satiric intent it was the editors at CBS who ran them. And I kind of doubt that.

  13. This appears to be intentional. Is kitschy coming back into photography? Terry Richardson’s harsh on camera flash point and shoot style is now praised. Maybe soon enough this will be too.

    I had to look up “jingoistic”.

  14. Well, how can you condem those photographs and call Leon Borenszstein ´´American portraits“ fine art? What is the yardstick you use to measure this things? I am begining to wonder whether photography or the people who write about photography should be taken seriously.

  15. How many different attempts at lighting setups did these jokers do, 100?

    KISS. Seriously.

    • Amen!

  16. I wouldn’t be too quick to blame the photographer. We don’t know what restrictions or instructions he may have been operating under. A look at his work online would indicate this kind of thing is perhaps not his strength, but his other work for AFP is ok. I wonder if anyone at Getty will have to walk the plank? They’ve been playing the AFP connection to circumvent limits on accreditations to big events for years. So it’s kind of fun to watch when they shoot themselves in the foot like this.

  17. The only justification I can think of is that the photos were intentionally shot in an amateurish way to reflect the historically amateur Olympics. Other than that? Bad deal here.

    • LOL – probably very true about that. Cheaper isn’t always better.

  18. My heart breaks for Joe. I’ve heard he’s a phenomenal photojournalist and I would absolutely DIE if I had such a huge assignment outside of my comfort zone … then was not supported on the backend by my editors AND then to have the world discussing it on blogs like this. It could happen to any of us. Show Joe some love.

    • Denise, the best thing you can do is LAUGH ALONG WITH HIM. The whole thing is a piece of satire that seems to have passed WAY over American’s heads.

    • Love? Sure..I know several people that could have done the job with one or two speedlights. The one guy is 25. And he doesn’t know a lot of people. I don’t do this kinda of photography because it does nothing for me and regardless if SI, AFP or AP does it, to me looks like senior portraits, this photography has no balls.

      SIMPLE RULE: When an assignment editors looks for a photographer to cover a particular shoot there is a procedure as to who is fit for the assignment. This is the norm for regular daily assignments on a mid-size daily newspaper. There is not issue towards the photographer. It is how well connect you are. By looking at his site this guy’s work is pretty weak considering his position. And yes I will be hard on him because like the anything else the photography lobby and who gets what, etc, is corrupt.

  19. Perhaps the scariest thing is that he actually looked at the display whether on the camera or tethered to a computer and proceeded.

  20. This body of work is actually sticking in my head more and more as the week goes on. We all have had to deal with less than great situations with high expectations…and here the photographer just laid it all out for us. The top image, with the gymnast posing in front of the small flag is really the best one. No matter where I go this week I can’t get that image out of my mind. All the mis-fitting details, ripped seamless, all of those things just come with the territory and then we try to fix them later. Here it’s all here for us to see…and man, I’ve made images just like all of these and worse.

  21. Some of these look like lighting tests or mis-fires. Could some editor going through the take have thought “Let’s put up the worst and most useless and see if anyone notices”

  22. I think some can be cropped but 3rd pic not. Agree with most comments, not hot about the lighting.

  23. […] What has the photo world up in arms is that, of course, the images don’t look professional and don’t flatter the athletes at all. Combine the awkward poses, the bad backgrounds, the varying exposures, well, I could go on and on. Or, you wade into the murky waters of the internet commenters (if you’re the kind of person who wants to poke their eyes out with a stick) like this one at or blog posts like this one or this one. […]

  24. The intentionally sloppy behind the scenes type of look is often referred to as “photo aware.” It’s been a cliche for so long now that it could actually be turning into an archetype. Scary

  25. I’m not sure I completely buy the ‘difficult location, 100 portraits’ excuse. One need only look at Platon’s portraits of world leaders to see how successful such conditions can be

    • Thank you. That is actually easier. It’s a person, not God. You have your set up and you done. Convincing someone on the street to take a picture and complete a good portrait is way harder than this. I mean, he is posing for you..Hellooo.. Not impressed with the Dallas shooter stuff either. The photo with the cyclist is “hot” on the left side. I mean, don’t you look at your sceen?

  26. If a photographer is going to intentionally include sets and backgrounds etc, then could it be necessary to include lots of extra clutter just to drive the point home?

    Peter Lindbergh has done a lot of intentionally haphazard style editorials with success, but his sets were usually cluttered with tons of grip gear and cinema lights etc. In other words, he takes the idea “over the top” so that it’s easy to understand the intention behind it.

    Is it possible that the apparent failure of the athlete images is not necessarily the result of the idea behind them as much as that the idea didn’t get taken far enough? I honestly don’t know and am asking others what they think?

  27. Perhaps he provided his rates to the olympic committee and they determined that since it’s photography and everybody can do it and to top it off it’s such an awesome opportunity for him to get to shoot the olympic team he should be happy and do it for less. So he went online found other photographers that work for that suggested rate and matched the quality of the work. Simple!

  28. After doing a cursory search on the internet for Joe Klamar & images, it’s clear that he is a sports/celebrity photojournalist and not a portrait photographer. I don’t know why he was given this job, or what the mindset was, but it appears to me that these were proofs with the understanding that the whole image was going to be retouched including a background swap. JMHO.

  29. …after some thinking i have to say i love these pictures.
    especially the fact, that they show the most successful athletes of a country.
    he shows heroic figures, besides advertising contracts and billboards.
    this could be you and me, people with mistakes and doubts and he shows ’em like that to the whole world press. there’s a brutalism behind it just adore and can really relate to on a PERSONAL LEVEL.
    …but of course all this suppose that the shoot was intentional, which it clearly wasn’t. As some of you already mentioned, don’t just blame the photographer. The error chain to make something like this possible is exceptional. I kinda feel sry for him, he seems like a good sport journalist who should have said NO to this assignment.

    cheers, x

  30. As has been said previously, Joe klamar is not a portrait photographer.

    he had about four minutes to photograph each athlete with about 100 athletes in total on the day. Of course he should have told the organisers (who obviously weren’t photographers themselves) that the conditions weren’t right.

    Read a more objective article about this here:

    • I agree with Gander’s analysis. it seems poorly thought out and set up. I have a good friend whose nephew is an Olympic contender. He tells me says all of the athletes hate these kind of mass photo calls and also working with photographers who do not know their sport. Maybe it is just the way everyone is forced to do things because it is the easiest and simplest way to get everyone happy that they got photos and the athletes can get back to training without a lot of disruptions and distractions in their schedules.

  31. I’m sure this has been done intentionally.


  32. Give him a break! Yes, those pictures are really bad. But he is clearly not a portrait photographer. The guys at AFP and Getty who assigned him for this job should take their job more seriously. They have tons of photogs who could do a better job, why did they pick this guy? I don´t get it. I feel sorry for Joe.

    • I agree, but surely it’s been done intentionally? I mean. Why on earth wouldn’t you pick one of the many brilliant portrait photographers they already have?

      • Because whoever assigned this phoned it in. Not enough thought went into the assignment, maybe no one else was available. Maybe someone was leaving for vacation and this was the last assignment they had to make before leaving. Who knows. Maybe these were the out takes?

  33. Blame the USOC for this – trying to cram in all the media requests into one giant cluster_ _ _ k.

    A close inspection of all the photography done that day, by all the different media outlets would probably reveal quite a bit of substandard images. A bad idea all around.

    • The photo equivalent of speed-dating. The USOC couldn’t organize a picnic, though they are really great at making sure nobody has a Basket Weaving Olympics.

  34. I looked over the 34 or so photos that were released. I had to look at them twice, and read the blurbs, because 1) I had no idea what sport they represented, 2) Why were at least half the athletes dressed in jeans with no shirts, 3) the women in the more “strenuous” sports were posed in behemoth-looking angles, which caused them to resemble male wrestlers, 4) the woman in the volleyball picture looks posed as if she is part of a witch coven, 5, Michael Phelps looks like he couldn’t swim across a stream, 6) the diving sports show no water, no bathing suits, and 7) the flag couldn’t be anymore wrinkled if you rolled it up in a ball then unfurled it. My only comment to Joe Klamar – leave the theatrical poses and lighting to celebrity photographs.

  35. The problem appears to be that no one cared if this job came off well, except Joe. When people are just doing a rote task, this is the result. No one cared if these photos were good. Not the IOC, not the tired flash addled Olympians, apparently not Getty. Its almost as if he had a different brief that changed once he showed up.

  36. I wouldn’t blame just a photographer or editor. This is a clear message to all clients. If you don’t want to invest money to the proper production you can’t expect miracles. You will get what you have paid for. I am sorry to say this, but that’s how it works.

  37. Seriously!
    I guess the G in Getty stands for garbage.
    Joe proves anyone can be a photographer, even one so excruciatingly talentless !

  38. “I think this subset of photos also take a silent sledgehammer to the jingoistic adulation of the American team,,,”

    I think this would be the angle I’d take if I shot anything this bad. I’d swear up and down it was intentional. I’d say it was a metaphorical comment on the state of photojournalism today, when news organizations fire talented and skilled photographers because everyone has a cell phone with a camera in it, and they can cherry pick bad photos off Flickr for free.

    But I think the reality is this guy was in way over his head. Yes, the conditions were hideous, but from what I saw in the article Rob posted above from the Dallas News, ( there were plenty of other photographers working in the same conditions and I saw some nice examples of their work. Hell, it looks like half of his images were randomly lit by lights from other photographer’s sets. (Talk about a Pocket Wizard nightmare!)

    I do feel a bit bad for the guy, but I think it’s every photographer’s responsibility to know when to turn down a job that they’re not suited for.

  39. I. Love. These.

  40. Last time I checked the definition of a professional photographer, was to get the best image period. No matter what your conditions are. If you can deliver in a setup like that with fixed lighting and no weather to deal with, then shit, you don’t belong in the business. In my line of work, you only get one chance to get the shot right so you better nail it, and you have a very small weather window to make it happen, so I zero respect for people that can’t nail there portraits every time.

  41. 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 this 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!

    • Well said Ken. Joe’s pictures may not be that great but they are a lot more “real” than most of the highly stylized stuff we’ve come to accept from magazines that are supposedly doing journalism. It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for Getty. Eugene Richards walked away(and good for him!) and this week they have to live with this mess hanging around their necks. Hopefully this trend will continue. They have a lot in common with that famous organization with its roots in Sicily. They’ve made a lot of deals nobody could refuse(or compete with and stay in business) in order to kill off competition and dominate markets. They’ve bought off leagues, federations and international governing bodies to gain exclusivity, preferential access and favored commercial relationships with sponsors, all the while claiming to be a wire service. They use a “relationship” with AFP to subvert limits on credentials with the result that no other agency could ever have as many shooters at a major event as Getty does. Can’t believe Reuters and AP don’t scream about that. In this case I imagine even the USOC might be realizing it’s been taken for a ride.

      • By “real” you mean doing a crotch shot with the tongue almost out looking like a retard? Please!

    • Kenneth this is the best set of comments yet.

  42. Joe was shooting for AFP. Not Getty. AFP is a partner agency with Getty. AFP images are sold on the Getty site, hence the credit AFP/Getty Images, and that is all. Getty doesn’t assign AFP photographers assignments, and vice versa. Getty doesn’t edit AFP’s photo’s and vice versa. They are two entirely different and separate photo/wire agencies. The Getty staffers that did cover this, did a fantastic job. So did the Reuters and AP staffers.

    • 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.

      • AFP images aren’t Getty’s content. AFP content is their own copyrighted material, for sale through the Getty site. That’s it. Same how is partnered with Contact Press. Or, Redux/NYT etc. Or for any and all other agencies that partner with one another to make more sales. It’s easy to confuse, however, when a credit reads AFP/Getty. With that said, the rest of your comment is spot on, and agreed.

  43. For everyone who has complained about these photos how would you have done it given the circumstances imposed on you?

    I think my approach would have been something along the lines of what martin Schoeller’s “Big Heads” series or a very simple and consistent set up where I could chat with them for a minute or two without trying to turn them into instant actors. If you want to think along sophisticated artistic lines , something like the Bechers did with their series of photos of water towers

    • Or change direction, take them outside, even in rain they’d be better.. as a creative I assume we’re paid to come up with ideas and fast..

      • And how would that work wit ha bunch of other photogrpahers who needed to shoot the same people in a relatively short amount of time? Sure there are other and more creative ways to shoot each of the individual athletes given the time… butthere is no time and there is notthe luxury of being able to take them away fro mthe other photographers.

        The brief is “There are 100 people that need to be to photograph and there are three to four other photographers who need to photograph them as well at roughly the same time. In order to get this all done you only have 4 minutes with each person and then they need to move on to the next photographer.”

        In other words not all of the creativity in getting a good shot is found between the four edges that define the frame. Access is one problem. Time is another. Deadlines are a third.

        • Saying all that does not negate what I’ve already stated and one of the main reasons photography matters.. don’t think how some other guy would do it, find your own space. Try 2 great portraits instead of 4 time wasters..

    • That is genius. then the subject of this tirade would be how Martin had been ripped off by a guy who’s work is very clearly not of that ‘style’. I know….. you said ‘like’, doesn’t mean ‘ripped off’. I get it

  44. This reflects the sad state of an increasing amount of assigned photography these days.. is it us as professionals’ fault, or just the enormous number of images being shot, that means any old crap will do ? I don’t need to see the other shots; this lot tells a story I’d rather not read..

  45. Instead of wondering about the particular photos and deeply analyze them, one needs to ask: Who did this photographer know; who did the assignment editor know; and who the director of photography know..To have a job like this covering an assignment of such importance. I don’t care about the Olympics since its a advertisement fiasco but still.

  46. I think the photos are exactly what they are described to be in the captions, olympians posing. That was the story, and Joe told it well. What fiasco?

  47. If you can’t find your own way inside of a specific technique or a broad style you’re lost to start with.

    Rather than criticize my possible approach Christopher tell us what you would do.

  48. I must admit I’m really confused by these images but am not shocked by them.

  49. Getty licensing these image shows us all why they’re easily worth the more than $4 Billion private equity companies are bidding for them (please insert a liberal dose of caustic sarcasm in my statement).

  50. I wonder if his blog got him the work?

  51. What a brilliant way to insult Olympic athletes.

    Now they have pictures to use if any fail to win a medal.

    There can be no other reason to shoot such insulting pictures.

  52. This assigning editor has failed both his company and his hired photographer, leaving both holding the bag. The buck stops with him.

  53. Here’s the scenerio I envision…
    1. Field photographer gets a call to shoot some olympians. He’s no lighting expert but thinks “hey, why not?”
    2. Arrives at the shoot with some background paper, a speedlight, and a prayer.
    3. Resulting images are so bad they provide endless entertainment at the agency, as a joke, the images are published
    4. Agency reps and photographer meet for beers and a few laughs, while the photography world goes off in a tizzy.

  54. Funny, I just read a story that all sides are happy with the images. The photographer was told that he’d be shooting the subjects at a news conference, so he showed up with three zoom lenses and a single flash. The reality proved to be quite different and someone had a little compassion and made room for him in there impromptu studio. As I said, everyone seems to be defending the images.

  55. is it possible he is simply making a statement on how we run our country.

  56. Here it is a week later and the furor has died down a bit. At this point I’d like to see what will happen next. First thing I anticipate will be a re-shoot.

    I read Klamar’s reasons (excuses), boiling down to “I didn’t know anything more than headshots were expected.” Just the same, we’re called upon to come up with creative solutions on our feet, and he failed miserably. There’s no way I’d let those images out of my studio; there’s no reason he should have released them as they were. Maybe the shoddy shoot could have been mitigated somewhat with some heavy-duty Photoshop work, maybe not.

    The editor and/or client share some blame (perhaps) if Klamar’s contention is true, that the shoot snowballed with an epic amount of mission creep. But really, how were those pictures ever released?

  57. The only way to improve these with photoshop?


    He probably got the job by submitting something with the words “passionate about photography” on it.


  58. I’ve read a lot of the comments about this shoot and the mich-maligned photographer. I also read his explanation. All I can say is “wow, that’s a relief!” You see, my first reaction was “These are shockingly bad photos”. Then I tried to analyse them and re-interpret them as some sort of post-modernist comment on the state of documentary photography, or the Olympucs, or capitalism, as some have done. Then I thought perhaps the photographer assumed the images would be post-processed. But no, it seems, he just messed up. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it every once in a while. But I am more relieved that I can still (just) recognise poorly composed photos when I see them!

    But for the grace of God go I.

    Happy shooting all of you.

  59. I believe the actual blame needs to be on the person/editor who allowed the images to be posted on the wire. Usually an editor looks over the images and captions to make sure everything is correct before sending them out on the wire. That person should have questioned or raised questions after seeing the work. Seems more like management should take a hit on this one, from the assigning editor, who may have needed to send a different photographer to the picture editor who posted them.

    • Agreed, it should have been the photo editor both accepting these images into the Getty catalog and the editor broadcasting this poor excuse of photography. But, this will go down in history and the photographer will get plenty of publicity, and perhaps a mention or two in a history book. :)

  60. Honestly what’s the problem here? These photos break out of a tired stereotype. I see risk taking and these images cut through the clutter.

  61. Well. I’d like to know, how much was author’s fee. It would tell me something essential about this… phenomenon..?

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