Walter Iooss

by Chris Duesing

If you are an avid reader of Sports Illustrated, you may be familiar with the work of Walter Iooss. His photos of athletes and swimsuit models are recognized around the world.

Walter Iooss Educational Background

By the time Walter Iooss graduated from East Orange High School in New Jersey, he was already shooting pictures of athletes. His early inspiration came from veteran Sports Illustrated photographers John Zimmerman, Hy Peskin and Mark Kaufman. During this time, Iooss had some formal training at the Germain School of Photography in New York City.

Walter Iooss: The Athletic Photo Career

Walter Iooss knew exactly where he wanted his career to go. He constantly hounded the office of Sports Illustrated with his work. When he finally received his first assignment from the magazine, it was an historic one. Iooss happened to be on assignment at Yankee Stadium in 1961 when Roger Maris beat Babe Ruth’s home run record with the iconic 61 runs.

After two years of hard work, Walter Iooss finally achieved masthead status of Sports Illustrated. He was only 20-years-old when he got his first Sports Illustrated cover, a photo of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey. Iooss has been working for the magazine ever since.

One of the highlights of Iooss’ career was shooting the cover of Sports Illustrated on January 18, 1982. The image shows Dwight Clark, then the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, catching a pass from quarterback Joe Montana. That photo depicted the historic catch that got the 49ers into the Super Bowl that year.

During that year, Walter Iooss took some time off from his regular work at Sports Illustrated when Fujifilm asked him to do a photographic study of potential athletes working their way to the Summer Olympics of 1984. This project became one of his many books.

Walter Iooss Books

Walter Iooss has written 14 books that are photographic collections of models, singers and athletes. These include:

In addition to all his sports photos, Walter Iooss has also been one of the main photographers for the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. While this is a highly enjoyable part of his job, shooting for the swimsuit issue takes long days of shooting for over four months.

In addition to his work with sports, Walter Iooss is known for photographing musicians. Although he doesn’t really remember exactly how he got the job, Iooss became an in-house photographer for Atlantic Records. On that assignment, he photographed many famous musicians including Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin.

The Influence of Walter Iooss

Iooss’ work has been honored with a Lucie Award for lifetime achievement in the industry. He has made a name for himself in the world of athletic photography, shooting images that truly bring sports to life.

Despite his famous pictures of celebrity athletes, musicians and models, Iooss’ most meaningful work experiences have been during what other photographers would have considered routine and ordinary assignments: one example is capturing Cuban kids playing hockey in an alley, recording on film the true love of the game. That’s been the most rewarding experience for the legendary celebrity photographer.

Further Reading
Chris Duesing
Chris Duesing

I am a photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and programmer living in the great city of Chicago. I love to solve problems with technology and share what I have learned along the way.