An Olympic-Sized Brouhaha

Hipsta abstract, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

As most of you probably already know, the Olympics are starting this week over in London. Olympic sports offer a great opportunity for photographers-I’ve always though of the photographers as a kind of “behind the scenes” Olympic athletes or, to put it another way, it’s sometimes just as hard to shoot the Olympics as it is to play in them. There’s a lot that goes into getting those memorable shots, sometimes the most out-of-control of which falls into the category of “just plain dumb luck.” There’s no doubt that this year too, as we enter into another round of the great games, we’ll be inundated with some great photographic moments as well. A lot of times the best and the brightest of our photographic “stars” are away shooting the games and for good reason-we’ve grown to expect nothing less than great shots from these memorable moments. The photographers work hard, behind the scenes and it’s a challenge for them to even get there-most magazines only send their best and brightest to shoot games like these.

This year, before the games have officially even kicked off, there’s already a scandal brewing, and it has to do with the photographic portraits of the athletes. Getty photographer Joe Klamar shot some portraits of the athletes that many are calling less than professional grade. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that these portraits are so bad they must have been produced this way on purpose-that there is some kind of “message” the photographer must be sending to us all-perhaps something about athletes being held up too high on a pedestal (or what? I’m not really sure here.) So bad they must have a hidden message? Really?

You can view the portraits here if you are curious and want to see for yourself.

My take on this entire “Olympic portrait scandal” is maybe somewhat different from what you may (or may not) have been reading. The Olympic games have given us many great images (over time) of athletes performing at their peak. I prefer to think about all the great shots we have yet to see than the shots we didn’t quite like. Sure, the “bad” shots might represent a failed (or missed) opportunity, but such is the nature of photography. It’s a fleeting moment in time, captured, if we are lucky, for all to see and enjoy later. In this day and age of Flickr and Facebook and all things happening real-time streaming right in front of our eyes, we forget that photography is a craft and, like any craft, sometimes it’s good and sometimes, sadly, it doesn’t live up to our expectations. To put it another way, not every photographic shot is destined for Flickr’s explore and, no, Cinderella, we can’t always get the perfect fitting glass slipper sometimes, instead, we have to get the lump of coal. Sorry to mix my metaphors on your like that, but you have to admit, we’re a (photographically-speaking anyway) spoiled bunch of brats if you really think about it. We’ve gotten so used to see “fantastic!” that now, even a slightly “well-done” image is crap to our eyes. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. (You want some cheese with that whine?)

Part of being a professional photographer is that we work in all kinds of conditions. We travel, we have obscene deadlines, bad weather, annoying editors, crazy models, and all kinds of stuff thrown at us and, what do we do when faced with all of this? You guessed it: keep shooting! That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? Shoot, shoot, shoot. It’s raining, cold, I’m tired, it’s wet, my batteries dead, I’m out of Compact Flash, my model’s hair is crazy, my model is crazy…shoot some more. It’s the nature of the game (well, our game anyway, thought I’m sure the Olympians have their own version of “once more with feeling.”)

So, yes, the Olympic portraits you see at the link might be “bad” in your eyes. They might not be up to your standards. You might even think of them as “crap.” Whatever. The photographer tried. He did the best he could with what he had at the time. Maybe he’s not a great Olympic portrait photographer but that doesn’t mean he’s satan’s spawn walking God’s green earth either. Cut him some slack, he did the best he could given the circumstances.

To put it another way, I’m sorry if your sensibilities have been annoyed. I’m sorry if his rendition of this year’s Olympic athletes didn’t live up to your “perfect world” “Leave it to Beaver” top page of Flickr’s explore expectations. Please don’t tell me you could have done better, as I’ve heard that all before too-the world is filled with annoying arm chair quarterbacks. You’re just pests who would be in the game if you could get in the game. In this land of photography, welcome to the real world, you’re only as good as your best shots and you’re only as bad as your worst. Please don’t hold photographers up to some kind of “ideal” coulda-woulda-shoulda fictional “standard” because you have a point and shoot camera and think you’re the top dog in the pack. That alpha male crap is so yesterday. Let’s just agree to all try and get the best shots we can, ok? That’s what the world wants, that’s what the world *really* wants.

Pictures of heroes taken by heroes. It’s a tall order, please don’t fault one photographer for trying to deliver that to you, OK?

Until next time…

1 Comment

  1. Great Grandma Lin
    July 26, 2012 / 3:15 am

    I enjoyed looking through the Olympics photos…some were excellent, great composition or action capture. Like your photo also.

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