Sports Photography Legend, Walter Iooss Comes to Charlottesville

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- You have most likely seen a lot of Walter Iooss' (pronounced Yose) work and just simply not have known who took the picture. Iooss is responsible for some of the most iconic pictures in the history of sports.

Iooss is currently in Charlottesville displaying his work at The Haven at First and Market, a renovated church near the downtown mall. It is part of the LOOK3 Festival, which according to it's website "features exhibitions and talks with legendary photographers as well as outdoor projections, events, and workshops."

On Thursday afternoon, Iooss was sitting inside the renovated church as people in the community came in to enjoy his work.

"I never really could have imagined what this was going to be like today in this church," said Iooss. "I mean it is over whelming to see your pictures like this. You could take these pictures and put them anywhere else and it would never have the same feeling of being in a church."

Hanging from the rafters of the old church are pictures of sports icons such as Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey Jr., Serena Williams, Bill Russell and Dwight Clark. In the front of the church a slide show of even more of his famous photographs are playing.

"I'm really impressed with what they did here," said Iooss. "I think what they did with the photographs, to have Serena up in church, and Michael back here like the reverend behind us, it's just, it's pretty remarkable."

In the back right corner of the church hangs the photo entitled "The Catch." The photograph was taken in the final minute of the 1982 NFC Championship game between the Cowboys and 49ers.

"When 'The Catch' happened, you didn't know what was happening." said Iooss. "Someone comes out of the side of your eye and makes the catch and the next thing you know, the Cowboys are losing with 58 seconds left. Then you start to think, now that it is the end of the game, can the Cowboys score and they almost did."

It all happened so fast, Iooss wasn't sure if he even got a good look at the play.

"First of all you don't know if you are in focus," Iooss explained. "It's just a flash coming in front of your eyes. You have no idea and then you know, I wasn't very happy after the game. I never thought this was a historic moment because it takes time to make something historic, then it ran on the cover of Sports Illustrated the next week and then it became a symbolic moment for pro football, I mean it takes years to do that."

That is just one of the many world renowned pictures that Iooss has captured. But, it is hard for him to pick just one favorite.

"I don't know if I can narrow it to one." said Iooss. "It's hard to narrow 54 years down into one picture, even to talk about it now, it's 12 minutes a decade, it's a lot to think about."

But then, Iooss remembered a specific picture that stood out in his mind as one of the most powerful pictures he had ever captured. It's a picture of boxing legends Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier long after their careers were over. (The picture can be seen at the end of the attached video).

"That's a landmark picture, I think. It's the only time they ever posed together and its the only time they will ever pose again. It was one of those days that you know it's never going to happen [again] in your life. You have one opportunity and you want to take one great picture," said Iooss.

"We had to do some negotiating to get Ali and Frazier together, we had to do it at Joe's disposal, which was at his gym in Philadelphia," Iooss remembered.

"The magazine wanted all these fun pictures, you know punching in the jaw and all these color Polaroids. At the end, I said 'let's stop this, I just want you guys to stare at the camera,' we put the sepia Polaroid film in and something sort of magical happened," said Iooss.

"You pull this prints apart and just stick them on the wall and people just stare at them, you know that old saying 'a picture can steal your soul,' I mean it was legitimate. People look at these Polaroids and cry, I've seen it, I've seen people cry, I've cried. Two broken old warriors, and that's what they are."

Iooss will be speaking in a part of the LOOK3 Festival at the Paramount Theater on Friday, June 12th at 4 p.m. in an Artist Conversation with Steve Fine. His pictures will continue to be displayed at The Haven at First and Market through June 20th. Admission is free. For more information and directions visit