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Photographer harshly criticized for ‘shoddy’ Olympic portraits

Michael Phelps (Credit: Joe Klamar/AFP/GettyImages)

A set of portraits of American Olympians has generated negative feelings in the photography community because of an "amateur" and "shoddy" look that some think was intentional.

The photos were taken for Getty and AFP at the USOC media summit by Joe Klamar. While other photographers at the event chose to shoot the portraits straight up, Klamar's had a different feel. Members of the photography community weren't going for it.

This is what a normal Olympic portrait looks like.

Dakota Earnest (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Here are some of Klamar's from the USOC shoot. Note the different lighting, offbeat poses and exposed sets:

Rebecca Bross (Joe Klamar/AFP/GettyImages)

Jonathan Horton (Joe Klamar/AFP/GettyImages)

While the photos were taken in May, they've only recently gained a notorious reputation thanks to a thread on reddit's photography page. Here's a typical comment on reddit's photography page:

"wow... he's trying something new for press shots, concealing some details in shadows... using FOV and perspective to distort subjects in a not-so appealing way... Oh wait, these haven't been processed... Wow they're getting worse... Ok this wasn't on purpose...these are terrible..."

[ Photos: More from U.S. Olympic team media summit ]

You know when you're watching a basketball game and the director cuts to a floor-level camera from behind the basket and you're thinking, "huh, this is neat" for about two seconds before realizing that you can't see anything? There's a reason that camera has been positioned halfway up the stadium at half court for a reason. It looks good for a reason. That's sort of my thought on Klamar's photos. He tried to do something different and it didn't work. (Making Natalie Coughlin look anything but beautiful, for instance, was a big miss.)

[ Related: Gold medalist Stephanie Rice criticized for racy swimsuit ]

That's my uninformed opinion. Some folks in the photography field were a bit more harsh. "This is an embarrassment to our country and my profession," one wrote.

Hunter Kemper (Joe Klamar/AFP/GettyImages)

Natalie Coughlin (Joe Klamar/AFP/GettyImages)

Cassidy Krug (Joe Klamar/AFP/GettyImages)

There were some defenders of Klamar's vision. Michael Shaw writes on BagNews:

Whether the picture subverts the background, the composition, the lighting or the athlete's expression (or some combination), what at least a handful of Klamar's photos "accomplish" is to slight the plasticized image of the Olympic athlete perpetuated throughout the quadrennial media and advertising orgy. More than that though (and imagine you're reading the rest of this sentence to rabid chants of USA!! USA!!), I think this subset of photos also take a silent sledgehammer to the jingoistic adulation of the American team, to the extent these athletes serve as a fantasy extension of the dying dream of American worldwide superiority.

In the same post, Shaw referred to Michael Phelps as Mark Spitz.

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