A moment of grace: The photojournalism of Heinz Kluetmeier

A moment of grace: The photojournalism of Heinz Kluetmeier

Houston, Frank

Heinz Kluetmeier first photographed the Olympics in Munich, in 1972, on contract for Sports Illustrated, where he is now director of photography. He’s photographed every Olympics since, and each has left its unique impression. In Munich, Kluetmeier went from “photographing a sports event to photographing news” when eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. The Olympics, he says, have “never recovered, and never will.” While Montreal in 1976 was about exceptional athletes like Bruce Jenner, Nadia Comaneci, and Sugar Ray Leonard, Kluetmeier also vividly recalls the “guards with guns, everywhere.”

Moscow in 1980 was an “absolute police state,” in which Kluetmeier endured constant security checks and worried that his film would be x-rayed; he found the 1984 Los Angeles games, boycotted by the U.S.S.R., disappointing “because some of the world’s best athletes were not there.” The Seoul Games in 1988 seemed “orchestrated and controlled,” right down to the daily student riot at precisely 3:30 every afternoon. Poised on a balcony above Greg Louganis to photograph a dive, Kluetmeier was pushed away by a South Korean army guard; it was the dive in which Louganis hit his head on the board going down. In contrast to the “lock-step” of Seoul, Kluetmeier remembers Barcelona in 1992 for its “late-night restaurants” and “laid-back Mediterranean climate.”

There is a common denominator in Kluetmeier ‘s experiences: “Ninety percent of every photograph is given to getting to the shooting locations, getting into position,” he says. At that point, of course, the sheer athleticism of the Games comes through: “You try to catch a moment,” Kluetmeier says. “You find these people, who have great control over their bodies, in a graceful and poetic moment while seriously competing.”

Copyright Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism Jul/Aug 1996

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved