Beating a dead horse is not yet (far as I know) an Olympic sport. I’m not great at sports. I can almost hold my own at volleyball and I enjoy basketball (tho your 6 year old will kick my butt if we go one-on-one) but I’m not an Olympian.
I am a photographer. And I know my limits.
Joe Klamar & Olympic Athletes – Beating A Dead Horse.
The photographs of the United States Olympic athletes by Joe Klamar indicate that he does not know his limits.
I’m not going to repeat the conversations about how terrible (and they are terrible) these photographs are because you can read all about it via the links I’ll put at the end of this post.
My goal here is only to kick the dead horse, not beat it. Maybe even say something original. What can we learn from this?
1. Know your limits. Klamar appears to be experienced in photojournalism, not portrait photography.
This is not an excuse.
When asked to participate in this event Klamar should have said “Thank you very much for asking, I’m honoured you would consider me. I’m not a portrait photographer and you would be better served by finding someone who is.”
Given that he didn’t have either the integrity or the self-awareness to do that he should have checked out a book from the library on portrait photography. Or at least watched a video on YouTube.
Portrait photography has three critical elements. Posing the subject, lighting the subject and environment, composition of subject and environment. I am vastly simplify here but that about covers it. Klamar clearly (to anyone who is a visual artist) fails on all accounts.
People who don’t know anything about photography think it’s all the same. It’s not. Portraits, photo-journalism, weddings, products, food (yes food photography is an art all on it’s own), architectural, and more. There are different skill sets for all of these. I would not hire a great food photographer to take photos of my office building.
A good photographer will know his skill set and know his limits. Please note this doesn’t mean you don’t try to push the boundaries of your limits. You do. But you don’t show the results to the entire planet (see point 3 below).
2. Klamar had limited time with each subject and the environment was set up for him.
This is not an excuse.
I do portraits, fashion and fantasy photography. I know other photographers who do similar art. I can tell you that no matter how much control you have over the environment you never have enough control. I can tell you that no matter how much time you have it’s never enough time. Yet some of the most famous portraits of well known people were taken when the photographer literally had five minutes with the subject in whatever conditions happened to be available at that moment.
I’ve had equipment failures during shoots. I’ve forgotten props. I’ve had models not show up. I’ve been rained on during a wedding (best wedding photos ever). I forgotten equipment. I once saw another photographer’s strobe light blow up. Yet we adapt and overcome and keep going.
Klamar clearly shows a lack of ability to adapt to the situation and make something out of it. Had this been me the first thing I would have done would have been to get as far away from those ragged backdrops as possible. He had Olympic athletes here. And he’s sticking them in front of a white background because . . . it was there?
3. The big question is this. Why did he show these photographs to anyone?
Have I taken bad photographs? Oh heck yes I have. I’ve taken photographs much much worse than any of these. The difference between Klamar and Skippy is that I know when to post-process (not that Klamar did any post processing, I’m pretty certain these are straight out of the camera) and post on the internet – and I know when to delete.
These photos should have been deleted. It’s that simple.
I have to seriously wonder if Klamar showed these to any other photographer before turning them loose. If he didn’t he should have.
By the way, if other people did tell him these photos are good . . . were I Klamar I would question my relationship with those people.
Artists of all mediums like to perpetuate this myth of the Artist in a Dark Room who toils in isolation then springs the resulting magic on the world to the cheers of the masses. In reality if you want to be a real artist you need feedback.
And Klamar is getting feedback that’s for sure. But he should have asked for it sooner.
Also consider that if you believe there is no such thing as bad publicity then Klamar has got it made. His Google rank is thru the roof. But I digress . . .
I am a member of Northern Colorado Professional Photographers (see how I slip that plug in there) and every month we have a photography critique forum. If I bring a photograph that is bad someone is going to tell me. And they will. And it’s not personal, just like my comments about Klamar are not personal. It’s the honest truth about the art.
If one of my photos is terrible I want someone to tell me. I think it’s evident that Klamar doesn’t have a support system like this. Well, unless you count the entire internet.
Consider the horse beat. Moving on.
Read more & see the “photographs” via these links: