Last year, Sports Illustrated published Athlete, a collection of 150-plus photos by Walter Iooss. I was at “The Digital Journalist” today, a monthly online magazine for digital journalism, and I saw that they’ve posted the introductions written for the book by Michael Jordan and Terry McDonell, editor of Sports Illustrated Group.
Did you know Walter’s dad was a musician? It seems that not only did Walter discover photography by borrowing his dad’s camera but he also inherited his father’s instinctive creative approach. “As the years passed and sports (and life) became more complicated, Iooss refined his technique but not his style, which has remained fundamentally improvisational. (It will surprise no one familiar with his work to learn that his father, Walter C. Iooss Sr., was a jazz bassist who performed with Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillepsie, Billie Holiday, and other musicians.) The action and purity of sport have been Iooss’s concentration,” writes McDonell.
You can pretty much survey Walter’s entire career via his website—including recent work like a portrait of surfing’s golden boy Kelly Slater in Santa Barbara, California, and a surreal shot of the Twins’ Carlos Gomez reaching into the heavens to make a key catch in Port Charlotte, Florida. It’s amazing work. As Michael Jordan writes in Athlete, “You don’t have to perform for Walter. He is an artist looking for a shot, usually one that only he can see. And that’s the thing about genius. It’s often only obvious after the fact.”