Joe Klamar is a distinguished and outstanding personality of contemporary photo reportage. As Agence France Presse’s chief photographer he is responsible for the work of photographers from central Europe. When he is not covering one of the world’s major events he travels between his office in Vienna and his home in the Low Tatras in Slovakia. “Every year I produce several month-long stories, a number of one or two week long events, big political summits, world championships and many small events in central Europe – the longest I couldn’t see my family was seven months”, he says. “When something happens in the world, our central office in Paris calls all their top photographers with a brief question ‘Where are you and what time is your flight?’ so when I am getting ready to photograph downhill skiing in Austria I also pack a pair of shorts just in case I end up in Thailand two days later. I’ve often travelled to five countries in five days”. This overworked photographer never becomes a slave to a routine, always photographs “a little differently” and produces top-level reportage photography with a high aesthetic and emotional charge. He always tries to capture ordinary situations in a new way using a combination of astute observation, natural light, different viewpoints, momentary atmospheric conditions, variety of lenses, and combinations of time exposure and aperture. He thinks in advance of all possible situations and compositions. He never sets up his pictures. He is calm in crowd situations during big events, always fixated on his own objective: “The Pope or a president and thousands of people all around me… and there’s me with a smile on my face, constantly mumbling ‘Excuse me, excuse me…’ When I can’t stand it anymore, I put music on and with an earphone in my ear and a long lens like a weapon in front of me, I move forward”. Sometimes events touch him a lot, like the funeral of six hundred bodies that were found in a mass grave in Srebrenica after the end of the war in Yugoslavia. “I am still affected by the heavy atmosphere…” The result of Klamar’s obsession with always photographing “a little differently” in all situations is the success of his photographs in international press and the number of awards such as the title “Photograph of the Year” he won in Czech Press Photo 2009 contest for his famous “minimalist” picture of two presidents – Barack Obama and the statue of T.G.Masaryk -with the background of Prague spires enveloped by soft haze.
Joe (born in 1965, originally Josef) Klamar comes from Jasna in the Low Tatras in Slovakia. When he was young he skied competitively, moved to Bratislava at the age of eighteen and worked as a camera assistant for Czechoslovak television. In 1987, during a trip to Yugoslavia, he emigrated through Austria to Canada. In Canada he washed cars, worked as a pizza messenger and painted gas pipes in a refinery. Then, from one day to the next, he stopped working and started studying photography and painting at the Medicine Hat College, began working for a local daily newspaper as a photographer and later for the Canadian Press Agency, the Winnipeg Sun newspaper and Reuters. At the end of the 1990s he returned to Slovakia where his Canadian wife runs a guest house in the mountains and he’s became Agence France Presse’s chief photographer for central Europe. He photographs events in his region and worldwide. He is a recipient of a number of Czech Press Photo awards, including the main prize – the Photograph of the Year 2009. He uses mainly Nikon D3 and Nikon P6000 cameras.