Digital Journalist has a great collection of photos from Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss along with explanations of how he got the shots. Neat backstory to this photo of “The Catch” (Joe Montana to Dwight Clark TD pass in 1982 Championship Game), the most famous picture he’s ever taken.
Walter Iooss Jr. had set up in the end zone and snapped a soaring Dwight Clark in what has become one of the magazine’s enduring images (as the abundant yellow stickers on the slide attest). Iooss’s picture, though, was the result of more than positioning. He’d been shooting the beginning of this play with a telephoto lens, but as he saw the action coming his way, he quickly switched to a camera around his neck with a 50-millimeter lens, better suited to close-up action. He framed the moment perfectly.
In the Digital Journalist piece, Iooss explains why the Clark shot is one he never wanted to happen.
What’s ironic about this picture, which came to be known as The Catch, is that I never wanted it to happen. I had been covering the Dallas Cowboys the entire NFL season. I was given total access: the locker room, the trainer’s room, the off-limits spots where no photographer had been before. I’d seen the things the Cowboys did so they could play in pain. I’d become friends with one player who, the first time I was in the locker room, came up to me and said, “I want you to take a picture of me getting a needle in my shoulder.” I looked around, thinking maybe I was being put on, and said, “You’re kidding, right? Why would you want me to do that?” He said, “Because I want to give it to my son to make sure he never plays football again.” On the day of this game the same player said, “I don’t know what to do. My knee is in such pain, my shoulder is in pain, but I can’t take two shots. It’s too much. I don’t know which one to take.” With 58 seconds left in the NFC Championship Game, Joe Montana rolled out to my left and launched a pass. Something to my right came into my peripheral vision, and I reached for my camera with the 50mm lens, trying to focus. I just started hitting the motor drive and shot. Dwight Clark caught the ball probably 20 feet away from me. The 49ers scored the touchdown that sent them to the Super Bowl and the Cowboys’ season was over. I was heartbroken. I had spent a whole season with the team and had gotten close with the players. I went in the locker room after the game and the mood was as if somebody had lost their family in a car crash. In a single moment my whole story went down the tubes. But the shot of Clark catching the touchdown pass ran on the cover of SI and became the most famous picture I’ve ever taken.
Related: Sports Illustrated has a new book called Slide Show:
The thing about slides, beyond the obvious that you could touch them and hold them up to the light, was that you could scribble notes on them. You might use the slide mount to jot down a quick description of what’s happening in the photo. You could give the mount a return to stamp, if you were messengering the slide across town in those days before e-mail…These artifacts of a rapidly receding era of magazine publishing brim with a found beauty; a humble cardboard square somehow fuses a photographic moment with its slowly accumulating embellishments of history.