Heinz Q&A (cont.)
SI.com: You have shot Phelps before, right?
Kluetmeier: I shot him for SI On Campus a couple of years ago and we had a lot of fun. We did a Back to School thing with him and we wanted to show his classroom underwater. We found this La-Z-Boy chair, computers, pennants and banners. When Michael showed up, he was totally charmed by it. He was curious about it, engaged. He could not have been a better subject. And, man, can the guy hold his breath underwater.
SI.com: How are things different in these Games compared with Munich?
Kluetmeier: First of all, we didn't have the access we have now. Photographers, at that time, were all forced to shoot from the balcony. The last day when Mark Spitz won his seventh medal, the team carried him around on his shoulders after he won the medal. We were down on the pool deck, which took a lot of negotiating and talking to people. That's the opposite here in Beijing where we really have terrific access.
SI.com: There was no Spitz cover from Munich Games, right?
Kluetmeier: No, because of the whole tragedy with the Israeli team.
SI.com: What happened after Spitz won his seventh medal?
Kluetmeier: Jerry Kirshenbaum, our Olympic writer at the time, knew Mark better than I did. He invited him out to dinner after his seventh gold. This was before the whole thing happened with the tragedy. So Mark was happy to join us and we had a really lovely dinner with some friends. When we dropped him off at the village that night, it was about the time the terrorists were coming into the village. He realized after the fact that he would have been a natural target for terrorists because of his background. He walked back to his lodging in potential mortal danger.
SI.com: What's the most memorable photo you shot of Spitz?
Kluetmeier: I really liked the pre-Olympic cover because it showed him carefree and at the peak of his swimming career. He was a delight to photograph. You could not take a bad picture of him.
SI.com: How is shooting Michael Phelps different than Spitz?
Kluetmeier: I think Mark was a lot more comfortable in front of the camera. He was like that ever since he was a young man that he looked good in front of the camera. He was also relaxed. I think Michael is a great subject as well, but I think Michael is not quite as comfortable with it, not quite as relaxed. But he has gotten much more so. When you compare him from a few years ago, he has gotten much more comfortable.
SI.com: What is the most memorable Olympic photo you've shot?
Kluetmeier: I would have to say the Olympic hockey photo from Lake Placid. That's the only cover we ever ran without cover language. It didn't need it. Everyone in America knew what happened. A close second at the same Olympics was Eric Heiden. The pre-Olympic cover of him was the first time he put on the gold suit. And I have to say the last Olympics I really enjoyed when Michael won his first medal in Athens. It was unbridled enthusiasm. Nothing studied, nothing planned, nothing choreographed. It was, 'Wow, I won.' That was my last Olympic cover.
SI.com: Give us the one Olympic athlete at any time in history you wish you could have photographed?
Kluetmeier: Jesse Owens. In a different time, socially and competitively and an Olympics that was so political, he had an incredible performance with grace, charm and dignity. To me he was a real mensch. I would have loved to have photographed him.
For more photos from Kluetmeier, click here.