The Power of Photography by Terry McDonellPosted: December 7, 2010
If you look back on a sporting event 10 or 20 years from now, it’s not the stats, sound bytes and box scores that you’ll remember. It’s the photographs, those indelible images that capture the drama of the game beyond the final score. And we pride ourselves on literally being in the best position possible to document sport’s key moments and raw emotion. Whether that’s Michael Phelps winning gold by the length of his fingertips or Drew Brees sharing the tenderest of postgame moments with his son Baylen, we have been there.
Since that timeless Eddie Matthews shot on the cover of our inaugural issue, Sports Illustrated’s photography has been a standard-bearer. We have won too many awards to count and been nominated many other times for photography’s most prestigious honors. More impressive is how our photos have become synonymous with sports history. The “Doctor K” cover of Dwight Gooden and his mind-bogglingly contorted right arm? Captured by the legendary Walter Iooss, Jr. The look of sheer relief on Hank Aaron’s face after breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record? That’s the handiwork of another Sports Illustrated lifer, Neil Leifer.
Under the leadership of Steve Fine (Director of Photography) and Jimmy Colton (Photography Editor), the Sports Illustrated photography staff has approached their work thusly: in order for a photo to be effective, it has to be affective. We want to create an “ooh” factor for the viewer—a visceral reaction to their feeling like they have a front row seat. It’s not a simple matter of pointing and clicking. It’s about finding the best angles and techniques that will leave viewers wondering, “How did they do that?”
The cover photograph and the subjects it captures become a status symbol, encapsulating the most important sports stories of the moment. That being said, it’s amazing to behold the trove of photos from the events that aren’t necessarily in the headlines. Case in point: our dazzling Leading Off section. There’s no worldwide audience tuning in to a Sierra Leone soccer tournament for amputees or a bird fight in Kabul, yet we’re still transfixed. No hype is necessary to describe what makes these images special.
We tell the story of sport through pictures, showing more than what the scoreboard tells you at the end of the day. As long as sports exist, we will be there to capture the memories that they generate and bring them to life.