Friday, July 13, 2012

Posing before Hitting the Podium: Are the Team USA portraits Fab or Drab?

SO something that has been making a few waves in cyberland over the last few weeks is the recently leaked photos of the USA Olympic team. They have been criticized for being amateurish, unsightly, and just down right awkward. The angles, lighting, and exposed sets all make for a very different kind of photo in comparison to the epic, glamourized images we've seen in the past. Like this one:
Instead, this is what the images by photographer JOE KLAMAR (images from AFP/GettyImages) ended up looking like. To be fair, everyone seems to be claiming that they are the official images, but apparently they are not, and are just another set of news photographs. Either way, you can't deny that they are certainly...unconventional.

Okay, so here's my breakdown of the photographs. I understand all the criticism they've received. I'm definitely not a fan of that final image of shot putter Jillian Camarena-Williams. I feel like it is completely devoid of life or energy and I am almost certain that is not true at all of Jillian herself (she is an Olympic athlete afterall!)

That being said, I recognize what Klamar is trying to accomplish in these images. They appear to be much more natural, with no photoshopping added. The athletes are lifted down from their pedestal as mortal gods (a pedestal often constructed from media campaigns and marketing) and their humanity is emphasized. They are just people. Super talented, focused people, but people nevertheless. When Nastia Luikin strikes a pose, sometimes the paper tears under her feet. I think the photographs give off an impression that they were taken in some little makeshift photography studio - and I would bet that's exactly what Klamar's vision was.

It reminds me a bit of Marc Jacobs fashion ads (see it always comes back to fashion on this blog doesn't it...). His marketing has such a distinctive aesthetic, that I happen to love (sometimes). The photographs in his ads always have a spontaneous, amateurish quality to them which is translated to major cool factor - like someome just ahppened to capture these uber stylish women (and sometiems men) in the midst of the daily routine. No photo studio required. Sometimes these ads really work, like in this case:

love MIA

So chic!

But sometimes, like Klamar's aesthetic, it doesn't work and just translates to awkward, unflattering images:

Just. weird. Sorry Marc, not a fan of these.

Of course, I love when everything comes together and sports meet fashion. Thanks Vogue for the lovely Team USA spread this month. I think photographer Annie Leibovitz nailed these. They have a hint of quirk, while still be incredibly flattering a beautiful. A great balance between Klamar's images, and the usual overly-edited and boring Olympic portraits. And of course, I love the integration of beautiful couture dresses...

What do you think of all the new Olympic photographs? Do you have a fav?

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