Did Joe Klamar take crummy photos of Olympic athletes on purpose?

The images of U.S.A. Team London 2012 are so bad that it’s hard to imagine otherwise

by Scaachi Koul

Portraits of the American Olympics team were released in May but only recently the Getty-commissioned images went viral, with their dim lighting, shoddy backdrops, and flat-out weird poses.

Take, for example, this image of gymnast Jonathan Horton posing with rigid perfection, and a ripped sheet beneath him.

Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty

The shots are poorly lit, poorly staged, and inexplicably strange.

In contrast, here are some Olympic portraits done by Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson. Note that there aren’t any shadows over the eyes or mouths of the athletes.

Slate went so far as to say that a shot of Michael Phelps made it look like he was “a volunteer heartthrob in an art school alien movie.”

Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty

Athletes don’t train to be supermodels, but they probably aren’t keen on looking doped up in their official portrait either.

The Getty photographer, Joe Klamar, isn’t an inexperienced—or bad—photographer either. He won Picture of the Year at the Czech Press Photo 2009 contest for a photo of Barack Obama taken during a visit to Prague.

In some obfuscated way, Klamar’s crummy photos may have actually yielded some positive press for Team USA. When was the last time anyone talked this much about the photographer of an Olympic team, good or bad? Klamar is either one of the worst Olympic photographers in this year’s roster, or a viral marketing genius. Besides, without Klamar’s photos, we wouldn’t be reminded of a shadow-beard whenever we see Cassidy Krug at the Olympics this summer.

There’s no official word yet from Klamar—who would have been one of a number of photographers representing agencies at a cattle-call like photo shoot—about the controversy or his defense of the photos. Because Klamar has a pre-Olympics reputation as a great photographer, there’s some talk from our own design department that maybe he took the weak photographs on purpose, to protest the way the athletes and photographers were organized.

But at least we’ll always have this. Whatever it is.

Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty





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Did Joe Klamar take crummy photos of Olympic athletes on purpose?

  1. ABC News says that photographer’s excuse was that he didn’t have enough prep time or the right equipment for the shoot. He goes on to say that photos are more human and not photoshopped. No way buddy! You stink.

  2. I’ve seen better done by amateurs!

  3. This comment was deleted.

    • That Harper Hating OCD of yours is lame

    • This rant does not belong here. It is bad form and offensive to change the subject.

    • And exactly how does this have ANYTHING to do with this article???

  4. I like the three shown here. The hyper-links are far worse though.

  5. I love the raw look of his photos much more than the polished airbrushed photos

  6. Oh god… I laughed my guts out. These are freakin hilarious! Awesome! Should get some kind of award.

  7. Was Annie Lebowitz busy?

  8. For the most part the Lucas Jackson photos are unexciting and uninspiring. There were a couple, like the fencer, that drew my interest, but for the most part…BORING!!! While there were several of Klamar’s that weren’t my cup of tea, there were quite a few that I actually LOVED!!!! I am a HUGE fan of light and shadow to add interest to a photo, and Klamar delivered that – in spades!

  9. I think these photos are not appropriate for the kind of purpose that they’re supposed to serve. People who will be watching the athletes compete are supposed to recognize them to cheer them on, but these photos, especially the Michael Phelps one, only makes them look either depressed or unrecognizable. There is a time and a place for artsy photos that play with shadow and texture, but these photos don’t look all that creative or inspiring. These amateur photos look plain and sloppy.

  10. These pics are as bad as the London 2012 logo! Sometimes the artist will make them look amateurish, say like American Apparel. But these are plain bad, wouldn’t get a passing grade in a school project. Actually, they are an insult to the athletes, that dedicate a life of training to get to this level.

  11. i like them. they’re interesting. what’s the problem? it’s true they don’t have that rah-rah patriotic toothpaste commercial look. it’s good. it was time for a change.

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