July 5, 2012

What did you think you'd get from the photographer who photographed Obama with a statue...

... like this?
When U.S. President Barack Obama visited Prague in April, the world's press establishment followed. Photographers scrambled to capture an iconic image. Joe Klamar succeeded. 

"It seemed like an obvious shot at the time. I thought all the other photographers would get it, as well," says Klamar, winner of the Czech Press Photo (CPP) "Photo of the Year" award for 2009.
It's an eccentric aesthetic, and that's what they got for these pictures of the U.S. Olympic team, which many people are complaining about

One reddit commentator said: 'There is no way any photographer with a mind for composition would make these mistakes. … If you were to tell me to set up shots to be as ugly as possible, but to not get caught, I would do these same setups.

'I think he must be making a statement about the way society paints athletes as perfect. Showing flaws in the photos to illustrate the fact that they are people, not gods. The mistakes are intentional. Especially considering about half could be fixed by any redditor that has Photoshop.'

Speaking on behalf of Mr Klamar, Director of Photography for AFP  Mladen Antonov told the MailOnline: 'The results of this photo shoot are exactly why we sent Joe Klamar in the first place. He has a very unconventional view and approach to both photography and the world.

'We are a news agency, not a PR or advertising agency hired by the Olympics and may I stress - as some internet sites have suggested - that these are not the official portraits of the U.S. Olympic team but only the images distributed by us.

'We have made them look like human beings, as was Joe's intention, not like pieces from Madame Tussaud's as other agencies did. They are real people, not works of art..."
They are real people, not works of art.... but the implication is: The photographs are art.

How artistic should journalistic photographs be? No, that's not the right question. The right question is: Is it wrong for journalistic photographs to be artistic in a strange way that undermines the beauty of a notably beautiful subject and calls attention to the quirkiness of the photographer?

Or is the right question: What will make you look? Or: What will make you remember Joe Klamar?

44 comments:

Quayle said...

Just a man and his teleprompter.

Oh, and a bunch of other old stuff.

But the man!

Behold the man!




(BTW, does anybody remember a single thing he said that day?)

(Thought not.)

Chip S. said...

Pilsner Urkel.

rhhardin said...

In poetry it's called roughening.

Making the medium visible.

edutcher said...

POTUS needs TOTUS even if he's talking to a statue.

That's about right.

PS The girl shotputter looks like she's about to say, "Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio. A fellow of infinite jest".

phx said...
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Dave said...

Didn't like the Olympic pics; they were badly lit with distracting shadows and he left in the backdrops. The photographer get's in the way of his own work, interfering with the subject.

TMink said...

I think they are all great! But you do not hire an artist for a task and expect to control the artist if you are wise. You hire them to get all artistic on you.

Trey

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Let's hire an artsy-fartsy photographer to do portraits and when he delivers artsy-fartsy portraits; we'll complain!

Sounds like a winnah to me!

AprilApple said...

I'm confident Chip Ahoy can do something clever with that.

rhhardin said...

@phx I've never heard that term. I'm just curious where you learned this. I couldn't find anything on the web.

Maybe it will come to me. It was most likely Kenneth Burke, and Language as Symbolic Action would be the most likely book.

If it comes to me, I'll change the answer.

A. Shmendrik said...
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phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A. Shmendrik said...

Masaryk's pose sez "WTF is with the teleprompter, bro?"

tim maguire said...

I think Klamar's unconventional approach has accomplished what most unconventional approaches accomplish.

A handful of truly interesting or beautiful shots and a lot of dreck that belongs on the cutting room floor.

In this case, it seems they haven't bothered to separate the wheat from the chaff. But to your question--all of this is inappropriate for a "news" photoshoot.

Wally Kalbacken said...

The lighting is atrocious. Given the ease and range of capabilities of digital photography at present - there is no excuse for shit like this. Except that maybe this guy dislikes the United States and found this as a way to express it, making the Olympians look bad.

rhhardin said...

@phx google on meter roughening poetry and you get a bunch of hits, albeit not apparently the one I learned it from.

James said...

The complaints about the Olympics team photos are much ado about nothing. Every guy with a camera seems to think that he/she could do better but it isn't as simple as most people think.

phx said...
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AJ Lynch said...

Wow that really is his TOTUS? Was it translating Prez Obama's words into the Czechian language [a variation of Austrian]?

"POTUS needs TOTUS even if he's talking to a statue".

Good one Edutcher! Hope Insty reads it!

Tom Spaulding said...

'The results of this photo shoot are exactly why we sent Joe Klamar in the first place. He has a very unconventional view and approach to both photography and the world.

I have a very unconventional approach to playing DB for the Packers, as I am 50 years old and too fat.

That's EXACTLY why I should get a roster spot.

It's SPORTS ART!!!

Joe said...

I kept thinking the Prague photo was a lame introduction to the real thing. It's a terrible picture by a terrible photographer. Klamar has no sense of composition or lighting.

(Then again Klamar gets an award for taking a crap picture of a man who got a Nobel Peace prize for doing nothing.)

chickelit said...

Another artist clambering attention.

Bryan C said...

I like that shot of Obama; it's a striking composition and a well-executed news photo. I didn't see anything wrong with his Olympic Team photos, either. It was clear to me that the unconventional lighting and backdrops were a deliberate choice of stagecraft, rather than embarrassing technical errors.

Are they journalistic? I don't see why they wouldn't be. They're honest photos and everyone is easily recognizable. The photographer didn't resort to Photoshop to alter the contents of the photo and he didn't misrepresent the subjects or the circumstances, which is more than we can say for many alleged photojournalists. Whether you like the results or not is a matter of taste.

Russ said...

When I first looked at the picture, I assumed the statue was of Lenin (Plenty of those in previous eastern block nations) and thought "Well, that's an interesting statement to make".

Well, that was the second thought after "wow, that's some bizarre composition bordering on bad amateur".

t-man said...

I like the Obama picture, because it captures his essential smallness.

paminwi said...

t-man: I thought the exact same thing. All I saw what that he is a small man in the picture and a small man in real life.

No artsy, fartsy evaluation need on from my perspective.

Palladian said...

The silhouetted statue in the Obama picture looks as if it has taken its uncircumcised penis from out of its trousers and is about to piss in Mr Obama's general direction.

The Olympic athlete photographs are the sort of deliberately ugly post-modernist "anti-aesthetic" aesthetic that is so common in contemporary art and photography that it's ridiculous to call it "unconventional".

If you're a so-called "journalist", you shouldn't be taking such mannered photographs; you're not the subject, your subject is the subject.. It would be like another journalist filing reports in iambic pentameter.

If these are not journalism, but "art", they're not particularly interesting as an aesthetic or conceptual idea, and many of them are ugly as hell, and I say this as an artist who likes mannered ugliness and technical revelation in artwork.

traditionalguy said...

Has anyone noticed that the Czechs are the realists of the world now.

Their President was up front calling Climate Warming a total political hoax by Marxists.

They live in a landlocked area between Austria, Poland and Germany, which was once called Bohemia.

Dealing with German Empire BS and Hapsburg Empire BS and following reformed theology while living encircled by Catholic Poland, Austria and a mountain range away from the Pope's Italy certainly made them realists that trust no BS form anyone.

The Czechs that I know are red haired, fair skinned and super intelligent descendents from grandparents that dropped "ski" off the end of their family's names when they arrived.

Frankns said...

Grunge comes to Olympic photography ...

Henry said...

The CPP photo of the year is really stunning. It looks better if you disconnect it from the horrible gray caption block below it. It needs to be framed against a neutral background.

The problem with the Olympic Team photos isn't their composition or the corporeality of their targets. It's that Mr. Klamar decided to go all meta on us. These photographs are about photography. They're an inside joke.

The reddit commenter gets the intentionality but misses the point. This isn't about athletes and society. It's about photography and society.

leslyn said...

Began C: "Like." Double "Like."

I thought the Olympic photos were great, including the one of Michael Phelps. Anyone can PhotoShop (and pose) their way to making real people look like Calvin Klein models--Klamar knows they're not. The criticisms were downright silly.

But I did think the bikini shot and the kick in high heels were weird and unlike his other shots. What was the point?

My favorite is the weightlifter. I'd like to have that one blown up into a poster.

leslyn said...

"Bryan C" not "Began C."

IMO, if you don't like the intentional realism and objectified emphasis in the shots, you should go back to gazing at your Thomas Kinkade.

traditionalguy said...
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traditionalguy said...

You would think athletic competition would be the last bastion of realism and not Hollywood.

But the Greek Olympic Games Re-dux is the old Greek Hero Worship of athlete demi-gods being crowned for their honoring Greek gods.

That we "need" that is a strange claim. OK, it is pagan religious art and that is a venerable tradition.

It's only in the last 20 years that we are seeing teams and competitors being introduced by announcers worshipfully as they suddenly appear in loud music, smoke and light show effects.

Sorry Olympics religious art guys. But the Czechs and most reformed protestants don't need or want to waste time on fantasies of demi-gods...other than Demi Moore.

phx said...

I love the headline: "Bizarre Photographs of US Olympic Team yadayadayada".

Why would anyone read the Mail?

BarrySanders20 said...

What Pallaidan said about the Olympic photos. They are uninteresting -- boring. Why do unimaginative, boring work if your are a photograhper or artist?

That's what lawyers do.

SukieTawdry said...

They're technically awful and artistically awful, but other than that they're fine.

Kirk Parker said...

phx,

"Why would anyone read the Mail?"

Because finding howlers in The Grauniad isn't remotely sporting?

JAL said...

Out of touch.

That's what I saw.

phx said...

: D

JAL said...

The Obama photo that is [comment above] -- not the Olympic ones which I briefly glanced at but which were singularly uninteresting.

Astro said...

The Obama photo looks like the bottom half is missing. It might have been more effective with some 'ground' between the two figures.

The photos of the Olympians aren't 'pretty'. I suppose some critics only like 'pretty'. These photos look more like photo-journalism. A bit gritty, though obviously staged. I think that if properly cropped, the photos would fine on that level, utilitarian.

Chip Ahoy said...

My British friends will go bonkers with the Olympics. One of their favorite things to photoshop is divers caught at the precise 'moment' that divers have up there, into unlikely situations like hovering above an interviewer's chair, inappropriately dressed and always with an intense grimace. We don't get the diver's grimace that happens in that moment, but apparently divers do not smile or remain unexpressive when they work.

The photos were, ah, see what you're doing, see what you're don'ing, yeah, yeah, muscles in arms but not torso, yeah, okay, torn paper, okay, seeing what you're doing there, the whole thing, but then finally a sense of relief with the last photograph of the real life winner and no contrivances at all.

Winner. The guy who took the picture of the winner.

The two overexposed shots are inexcusable.

tiger said...

It's poorly cropped.