‘The GOAT of sports photography’

Temple native Walter Iooss has captured hundreds of iconic moments with is camera, but his most memorable shot may be ”The Catch.” Longtime Cowboys fans will never forget Dwight Clark leaping for a Joe Montana pass at Candlestick Park that enabled the 49ers to win the NFC Championship game 28-27 over the Cowboys on Jan. 10, 1982. Christie’s Auction House calls Iooss the GOAT — Greatest of All Time — in sports photography.

UPDATE: Legendary Temple photographer known for iconic images


In the eyes of many young men, Temple native Walter Iooss had the perfect job — photographing the world’s top models for Sports Illustrated’s famous swimsuit issues and capturing images of sports heroes at Olympics, World Series and Super Bowls.

Iooss, the son of a Fort Hood soldier, was born at Scott & White in 1943. As a kid, he loved sports and was drawn to sports photos.

“I would cut out magazine photos and tape them to my wall,” he said.

Iooss moved to New Jersey at age 5, and as a teenager he shot his first roll of film.

“My dad bought tickets to a Giants football game one weekend,” Iooss said Thursday. “When he picked me up he gave me a Pentax camera, a 300 mm lens and one roll of film. Just one.”

One roll was all it took.

“After the game, we developed the film,” Iooss said. “As soon as I hung the first photo to dry, my future was unlocked. I knew what I wanted to do in life.”

From that moment on, Iooss photographed his entire world — friends, family, sports, street scenes…you name it.

“I started getting pretty good, so I made a portfolio,” he said “One day during my junior year in high school, I called Sports Illustrated and said I wanted a job.”

“When they found out how old I was, they laughed,” he said. “I think they invited me down as a joke.”

But after viewing the portfolio, the joke was over.

“They gave me a few assignments,” he said. “I didn’t have a driver’s license so my dad would take me to games.”

Iooss was just 19 years old when he shot his first cover for SI and his reputation as a photographer soared. Soon he was also the top photographer for Atlantic Records, capturing images of musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and James Brown.

One day Iooss got a call from Jule Campbell, a fashion reporter hired to develop a swimsuit segment for Sports Illustrated. He jumped at the chance to travel and photograph beautiful women.

“She said, ‘I want you to shoot the swimsuit issue,’” Iooss said. “It grew from 8 pages to 44 and became a great but insane monster.”

“I really couldn’t go wrong,” he said with a laugh. “I had great locations, beautiful models and the best make up and hairstylists in the world. I’ve shot about 25 issues.”

He truly put the “super” in many supermodel careers.

Iooss served as Sports Illustrated’s top photographer for six decades and his work graced more than 300 covers. He is known for his award-winning captures of athletes such as Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Scottie Pippen and Kelly Slater.

While photographing women, pro athletes and rock stars made Iooss famous, it was his award-winning photos of children playing that still makes him smile.

“I loved sports as a kid, and I love photographing young athletes,” he said. “I did a series on kids playing stickball in Cuba, and one on young kickboxers in Thailand. Those are very memorable.”

Today, Iooss makes a lot of memories with his grandchildren, and he is having a blast.

“Work was very slow when the pandemic hit,” he said. “There wasn’t much going on in the world of sports. I guess I kind of got used to it. I’m having a lot of fun with the grands.”

Still, Iooss said he hasn’t ruled out a return to the sidelines.

“There’s something about shooting a big game,” he said. “When I put the camera to my eye, the world goes silent. It’s me and the game, and I patiently wait to capture the perfect moment.”

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