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Walter Iooss: Sports Photography Legend
All photos by Walter Iooss
I’ve been fortunate,” Walter Iooss Jr. concedes. “It’s been a good life—I’m not going to complain about it.” As a photographer for Sports Illustrated for over 40 years, Iooss professes that he’ll continue to work for this magazine “till the end.” Since the early 1960s, he’s shot countless sports figures for SI’s pages and over 300 covers, and since 1972, he’s photographed many of the world’s top models for the magazine’s annual swimsuit issue.
Back in the ’70s, Iooss points out, only one photographer was chosen by SI to do an entire swimsuit issue each year. “Today, they use about eight photographers,” he says. This enviable assignment has taken him to some of the world’s most exotic locales—Mexico, Versailles, Hawaii, “lots of places in the Carribean,” and even Vietnam in 2002. “Everybody thinks I shoot pictures of girls all year, but it’s really just for one week,” he laughs. In 1975, he photographed Christie Brinkley’s first modeling job, and Cheryl Tiegs in 1978, clad in a white fishnet bathing suit on a Brazilian beach.
Great Body of Work
Iooss (whose name is pronounced “yose”), has published 12 books
thus far, which feature sports luminaries such as Michael Jordan, Cal Ripken
Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Mario Andretti, as well as the 1984 Olympic Games and
collections of many of his baseball and football photos. The most recent of
these is called Classic Baseball: The Photos of Walter Iooss Jr.
He’s photographed most of the luminaries in the world of sports over the years, and still retains his enthusiasm for his craft. “As a photographer, I’m drawn to stars,” he comments. “When I can get a star to perform, it’s the ultimate pleasure for me.” Iooss says the aura of celebrity athletes is what he’s drawn to the most in photography—“and for this, I get paid.” Iooss’ action photos capture the beauty and grace of sports, while his portraits reveal the soul of the subject.
A Love of the Game
A sports fan from the beginning, he started to photograph his friends playing
baseball and football, as well as professional games in the New York area. Before
long, Iooss started photographing his heroes, Mickey Mantle of the New York
Yankees, and Raymond Berry and Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts. His father
encouraged him when he realized photography was something his son really enjoyed.
In 1960, Iooss attended the German School of Photography in New York City, where
he took an accelerated photography fundamentals course during his summer break.
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