Born in Berlin, Germany but raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Heinz Kluetmeier was bitten by the photo bug at an early age. At 15 he was already shooting pictures for the Associated Press – capturing such people as Vince Lombardi, Paul Hornung, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Upon his high school graduation, he was offered a full time job as a photographer, instead (with the encouragement of his father), Kluetmeier decided to persue a degree in engineering at Dartmouth.
Nevertheless, even throughout his college career, Kluetmeier spent his summers in Milwaukee shooting for the Milwaukee Journal, the Associated Press and freelancing for Life. After graduating Dartmouth, Kluetmeier did in fact go on to work as an engineer for a steel company from 1966 – 1967.
It was not long before the lure of photography got the better of him, as in 1969, Kluetmeier became a staff member of Time, Inc. where he shot for both Sports Illustrated and Life. He has since shot over 100 covers for Sports Illustrated and in 1986 was named the Director of Photography at the magazine. It has often been noted that what sets him apart from his peers is his interest in the emotional impact of a shot rather than the technology involved. He once said “I think that technique and technical stuff is absolutely irrelevant to the picture in terms of what you do as a photographer. I think the most important thing is to have a vision, to have an emotional feeling, to care about what you’re photographing, and to have something that’s already there in your heart, in your eye.”
It has been Kluetmeier’s ability to engage the viewer with the passion of the moment and to let us experience the emotions of the very moment that he captured on celluloid that has singled him out from his colleagues – Kluetmeier has the ability to make us feel.