June 15th, 2015

LOOK3 2015: Walter Iooss Jr. Shares Advice and Lessons from His Encounters with Great Athletes

Walter Iooss Jr, a sports photography superstar for more than 50 years, regaled a 2015 LOOK3 audience on Friday with some of the best tales from his storied career. Steve Fine, former director of photography at Sport Illustrated, joined Iooss on stage at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville to prompt Iooss about his encounters with many great athletes: Roger Maris, Dave Parker, Joe Namath, Muhammed Ali, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan, to name only a few.

Iooss was a teenager without a driver’s license when he got his first assignment from Sports Illustrated around 1961. His father had to drive him to the job. The subject, an 83-year-old man who had built a sailboat and sailed it to Florida and back, looked at the 17-year-old photographer and said incredulously, “This is my moment?”

Iooss was, by his own account, born with a passion and a talent for photography. “Photography’s not that hard. It really isn’t,” he said during his talk. “It’s just instinctual. I’ve never had another job. I don’t know anything else. [I’m an] idiot savant.”

Equal to his passion for photography is his love of and fascination with sports. “When you play, the moment a pitch is thrown, or you shoot, or hit a golf ball, the whole world stops. There’s nothing that’s really happening except that moment with you, and that’s the escape of sport,” he said. “Sport is a real fantasy world, and in some ways, I try to project my childhood fantasies continually in pictures because you need a child’s heart to get the energy of these guys.”

Asked by Fine to talk about the defining characteristics of his work, Iooss offered what amounted to advice for aspiring sports photographers. (more…)

October 9th, 2013

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue a Key to Walter Iooss’s Access to Top Athletes

iooss coverWhen you’re trying to get access to top professional athletes, there’s no calling card like a steady gig shooting swimsuit models for Sports Illustrated.

Walter Iooss Jr, whom we interviewed in our October issue about his close professional relationship with basketball legend Michael Jordan, has been photographing sports and athletes for 50 years, and photographing the models for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for about 40 years.

“You have to ingratiate yourself [with athletes],” Iooss told us. “I’ve done it for so long, so my reputation helps me. They [star athletes] already think you can do something, so you’re not wasting their time.

Then he adds, “The swimsuit issue is obviously a big help with all these horny athletes. They love that. It’s remarkable how I could walk into a clubhouse and photograph anyone, as long as I give them a phone number of someone (in the SI Swimsuit issue).”

Not that he ever does that. “I’m not going to give it to them. They have their people contact the [model’s] people.”

But he shakes his head with wonder. “They think I can pimp for them. Some days I feel like a 69-year-old pimp. It’s disgraceful that they need me to find a woman.”

See more about Iooss and his work with Michael Jordan at PDNOnline.