A couple of different ways of looking at the Olympics

My partner Lucinda Marland and I were chatting a couple of years ago about the London 2012 Olympic Games and how we could get involved. We came up with a plan to shoot environmental portraits of Britain’s oldest Olympic Gold medalists, we felt that today’s youth obsessed society either overlooked or had forgotten about their achievements.

We spent the next two years reaching out to the Gold medalists and we managed to shoot all 14 of them (they had a combined age of over a thousand years). It culminated in an exhibition overlooking the London 2012 Olympic stadiums earlier this year. In fact if you are in London at the moment a selection of them are on display in the John Lewis store, Oxford street.

With my new found interest in the Olympics my eye caught the furore regarding Joe Klamar’s Team USA photographs.

I really can be quite unsympathetic when I see bad photography.

Particularly when it is by a ‘Pro’ working for a major and world renowned organisation.

When I first became aware of the furore surrounding these shots, I really was pretty astounded by what I saw, and despite all the excuses from his photo editor the pictures are, apart from a couple of exceptions, pretty rotten.

Nothing can really put into words what is wrong with them, lighting, execution, concept.

They are, in my opinion less than optimum…..

As I’m sure Joe Klamar (whom I have never met, nor do I have any connection with) would readily admit to, over a beer perhaps.

If you are expecting me to join in giving Joe Klamar a verbal lashing, which in my mind has been similar to the stoning scene in ‘The Life of Brian’ where all the women are wearing fake beards, well think again.

I have committed similar photo crimes to Joe and so very much worse too.

Let me explain.

The photos are generally indefensible until you read his account of the assignment.

‘I was under the impression that I was going to be photographing athletes on a stage or during press conference where I would take their headshots for our archives [and] I really had no idea that there would be a possibility for setting up a studio’.

I have seen some pretty strong comments from all comers.

But I would ask any of them to consider this.

What would you have done?

It’s all very well winning ‘blah, blah’ photo of the month with some unforced photo of something you like to shoot and had some kind of control or input in.

With the possibility of planning too.

Joe was sent on the equivalent of a photo suicide mission.

Without wishing to play the blame game, one could look elsewhere.

What brief was he given?

Most of my photo apocolypses have been set up by either poor briefing (ie not telling the photographer what they were getting into) or when I have not listened to the brief properly.

I have no idea which it was but these are scenarios which are possibilities.

The comment which cropped up often was ‘I could have done better with my iPhone, and in the right conditions I dare say we all could.

And there is the rub, in the right conditions.

Consider the excellent American baseball team photos by Nick Laham, shot on an iPhone in the restroom, seemingly against the odds but there was some form of preparation, note the KinoFlo’s (I LOVE them!), and I’m prepared to wager he was not fighting with every other news organisation to get the shot either.

The difference between an amateur and a pro is that as a pro you HAVE to take a photo as someone is paying you.

You don’t have the luxury of an amateur  of choosing when to pick the camera up or indeed what you shoot.

Imagine it was you who was sent to shoot this super high profile assignment unprepared, not knowing what the possibilities were, and having all the wrong gear.

On the AFP blog, Joe tells how he arrived with 2 bodies, 3 lenses and one flash unit……….oh dear.

After the wave of nausea had swept over you and, providing you were still standing, you would have to come up with some sort of plan, and quickly.

You might have done better than he did or you may have cracked under the pressure and done even worse.

He shot something which was not his finest moment, though I do actually like the shot of the guy with the dreads.

There is a native American saying which we could all do well to pay heed to ‘Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.’

You can see more of Drew’s work at Drew.it, keep up with him on his blog, and follow him on Twitter.

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11 Comments

  1. Drew, way to go, this is awesome!!!

  2. Splendid work Drew.  Digging the behind the scenes vid and how you went about your project.

  3. Wow, I love the photography for sure, this is splendidly done. Very shareworthy “)

  4. I would have liked to hear more about the photos you took and the stories you didn’t want to lose to a youth-obsessed culture – rather than a story about some other guy’s photos that I can’t see and don’t know a thing about!

  5. Thank’s Guys.

    If you want to see and hear their stories too you can see interviews I recorded with them at http://www.dualistic.co.uk.

    Regards

    Drew

  6. I feel very sympathetic to Joe’s whole situation. We’ve all had shoots that went to hell, but what I didn’t understand is why he didn’t take safer shots of the athletes. He had the equipment to take a standard portrait and could have made it work, but he opted for poses in a tight spot with the wrong lens that just looked awkward. Now that he’s got a little bit of fame for the wrong reasons, I wonder if he can turn it around for himself?

  7. I have no idea what the point of this story was. He’s showing his photos, which are no great thing in my opinion, while ragging on some other guys work as though we’d all know what he’s talking about. Really, best you could do for guest blogger? I’m available.

    • Dude, these pictures are great! Please link to your work so we can see what you do as your work must be pretty awesome if you aren’t impressed with Drew. And Drew never ragged on that other guy, he came to the other guy’s defense. Please check out Joe’s portraits so that you know what Drew was talking about, and so you know the point of his post. Drew is sympathizing with Joe.

  8. I have to agree. I’m not sure what the point of this story was. He should just talk about his project.  

  9. Great photos of the former gold medal winners. Very “quiet” and elegant. Tim and Glenn: I think Drew was sharing different aproaches to the Olympics and what the outcome was to two of them – Drews work and Joe’s. And for me there is a great lesson to be learned – always take that extra light or piece of gear you think you might use but usually don’t. there will be that “joe” situation coming up where you would have wished to have it with you. and if you end up in joes situation and make that decision to go down the stylized route – stick with it with all that you have!
    I would love to see some of your photos Glenn if you don’t like the photos shown here. at least drew can back up his ragging with some great shots.

  10. Hi Guys,

    Thanks for your comments.

    For some reason a link about the Joe Klamar shoot was not included.

    http://www.petapixel.com/2012/07/06/photographer-joe-klamar-explains-his-controversial-olympic-portraits/

    The point of the piece was not to ‘rag’ another photographer – far from it.

    It was to encourage us all to look at the back story, and to highlight the difference of being a pro photographer to a keen amateur – having to come up with a plan in difficult circumstances.

    Kind Regards

    Drew Gardner

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