He knows it’s time to categorize his collection, but legendary photographer Walter Iooss doesn’t seem too interested in doing all the paperwork and research the task would entail. He’s too concentrated on the art—the moving image and the beauty of the photograph.
“I’m trying to get this more organized down here. We need a more refined list. There are over a thousand signed and dated prints over there,” he says, pointing to a section of the lower level of his house he jokingly calls his “man cave.”
But it’s no cave. It’s a museum showcasing both Iooss’ own work and the work that he admires. Descend down the stair-case of his Montauk home and you are greeted by a signed print of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal and below that, one of Irving Penn’s nudes. On the opposite wall are sev-eral photos taken by Peter Beard—and also a photo of Beard at Studio 54. Other photographers with space on his wall include the great jazz photographer Herman Leonard, Mary Ellen Mark, O. Winston Link, James Nachtwey, Shelby Lee Adams and Pete Turner. The list goes on to read like a who’s who in the history of photography.
When Iooss and his wife Eva built this home in 1982, he was already an established music and sports photographer. They raised their two sons out east way before Montauk became a summer playground for the wealthy, but now he calls Bruce Weber, Julian Schnabel and Dick Cavett neighbors.
As Iooss walks us through his collection, he modestly gazes over some of the most recognizable shots in sports history—the ones he took. Michael Jordan’s “Blue Dunk,” “The Catch” (when Joe Montana threw the touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the 1982 Championship Game) and the famed portrait of Muham-mad Ali and Joe Frazier, taken in 2003. Of the thousands of assignments he’s had for Sports Illustrated, he’s shot more than 300 covers and 20 swimsuit covers.
Amid the uncategorized prints and negatives, Walter shows us the first photo he ever took, at a football game in 1959, as well as his first assignment, from SI in 1961. Since then Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Steffi Graf, Kelly Slater, Patrick Ew-ing, Derek Jeter, Kevin Garnett and Ken Griffey Jr., have all been photographed by Iooss—and the list continues to grow.
Iooss lights up while talking about the recent Players Tribune party he shot at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and it becomes clear why there’s no time for him to organize his collection—he’s simply too excited by sports and photography to turn down a good invitation. “What a party that was,” he says. “It was an exhausting job, shoot-ing for four straight hours. It was so much fun being there, we took portraits of every player we could get our hands on.”
No doubt the young athletes at this party were honored to have their portrait taken by Iooss.