Sunday 15 July 2012

Defending the indefensible

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 the shots of the USA Olympic team by Joe Klamar 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 it wrong with them, lighting, execution, concept.

They are bad.

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 photo's 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.

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'


Libby said...

' never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes'

No kidding. While I can see the intent in some of the photos, the execution was pretty much abysmal. I wonder though if JK had any inkling at all that this shoot was "kinda high profile". I've done 2 days prep to shoot wedding cakes at a bakery for pete's sake. Surely there were resources available for him to gather some better info, such as other shooters who had done this event type before.

As for the guys who say they could have done better with their Canon Rebel, well I don't exactly see them going to chase down work like this - they're generally much too busy sitting on Flicker all day playing armchair quarterback.

As I wrote on Jeremy Nicholl's blog, the "badness" ruffled pros for sure, but it also echoed across the normal population, and I think part of it was because the general public was not quite sure what they were seeing. Even the prosumer folks can recognize a really good photo these days, yet they are sometimes flummoxed when it comes to appropriate commentary on things like "art" photographs. Case in point - Andreas Gursky's image that sold for $4.3 mil. I wrote on this extensively. I didn't particularly like it, but I understood it.

From this side of the pond, JK's images are not what America wanted to see. With the boon of so much good photography on the web, there was much confusion and disappointment. And when the average person or novice shooter can't find the words, "You suck" is usually what emerges.

As always, a thought provoking post here. With Kind Regards -Libby

Libby said...

Off topic - Drew don't know if you saw this at Zacuto

Rodney is one of the participants. Watching Part One now and it's excellent - This will help me as I am still searching for handle I want to get on video. Unfortunately at this point I still shoot crap ;-)

Libby said...

Duh! Posted too fast, Lan and Vu Bui are in the credits - of curse you know ;-) Just delete the comments.

Peter Payne said...

A very good point made Drew.

I hadn't been aware of the circumstances of the shoot. I've gone from thinking "crikey, that's got to be the worst execution of the best opportunity ever", to a rather sick feeling in my stomach imagining what it would be like to turn up, unprepared at such a job. This an extreme case of a place all experienced shooters have been.

Could I have done better in this situation.....? 'think not!

JKorn said...

Regardless of the equipment he had with him, or lack thereof, his compositions were still awful. The only piece of equipment a photographer can blame for that is between his ears.

Unknown said...

Personally I would prefer a little more open approach from his mangers as to how this came about.



Nigel Skelsey said...

The problem with 'enthusiasts' is they generally know Jack Shit about the real world and the real world is this: a fine photographer turns up on a shoot without expecting that he is to cobble a studio out of next to nothing. He is then given one minute with each athlete. You know what? He has done an outstanding job in the circumstances. The criticism should not be aimed at the photographer but at his commissioning editor. I would love to place his detractors in the same situation and see how they get on; I suspect the results would in the main be off the abysmal scale.