Sports Illustrated: “The Education of Walter Iooss Jr.”

An archival photo of Walter Iooss at work.

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In its recent Sportsman/Sportswoman issue, Sports Illustrated published a huge feature—something like 12 pages—that explores “The Education of Walter Iooss Jr.” The piece is chock full of candid recollections and observations from the famed SI photog. Below are some highlights. You can read the story in its entirety here.

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I won’t do negative stories on athletes I know. Get someone else. It would destroy all trust. I want to make athletes look strong and heroic, like comic-book superheroes. Sometimes I’m the opposite of a writer, who tries to humanize them.

Truly, being with Michael [Jordan] was like traveling with Jesus. All the rules went out the window. Whatever I wanted, I could shoot. I’d go to some spot I knew no photographer should be, and someone would say, “Hey! You can’t stand here.”
I’d say, “I’m with Michael.”

Sports were like therapy for me when I was young. My parents got divorced when I was four, and it was really acrimonious. My dad was a jazz musician who played with Benny Goodman, and I wasn’t allowed to see him for four years. Even after that, when I saw him on weekends, it was horrible for me. Every time he would leave on Sunday, I was despondent.

I modeled my life as a photographer on the way athletes play their games. I don’t like sitting in a stadium for two hours chitchatting and smiling. What do I have to look at? I know what I’m going to shoot. I’ve arrived at events just as the national anthem was ending. It used to piss off the other photographers. They’re there three hours, four hours before the game. Boring.

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Though his SI work has made him a legend, Walter shoots for many other magazines and for ad clients as well—photos that have also earned him a measure of acclaim. In fact, Advertising Age has just released its picks for the “10 Best Magazine Covers of 2011,” and Walter’s cover for The New York Times Magazine, featuring Andy Samberg as both Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, made the list. Congratulations, Walter!

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From Advertising Age's "10 Best Magazine Covers of 2011."

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One Comment

  1. Posted 12/12/2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I met Walter yrs ago at the start of my photo career. Like for many other folks, he has been a great inspiration and example what a true photographer and person should be.

    A note that he wrote me, “Keep on Shooting, be patience and Never give up” is posted in my studio wall.


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