It sometimes seems that sports is a performance especially designed for photography. Certainly the spectator rarely sees sports as vividly as the camera, and never in the same richness of detail. The skillful photographer is able to freeze the split second of furious action into patterns that escape the eye completely while the action is taking place.
The fan has long been aware of this. Over and over again he has marveled at pictures that show the superhuman contortions of the player in midair at the start of a double play at second base; the odd bend of the pitcher's arm at delivery; the golfer's blast out of a sand trap; the plunging halfback half in, half out of the line.
But to many observers—and photographers—these familiar patterns, reprinted over the years, became clichés. And it was the photographer who could do something about it. He left his snug little nest beneath the grandstand roof where his long-range Big Bertha camera had been trained perpetually on the obvious. He began to roam, letting his artist's eye guide him. He left the ball park and stadium entirely as the mood struck him and began to move throughout the world of sport.
Now he went beyond the scenes he had ridden into clichés. He looked for more than action. He looked for meaning in his compositions and sometimes he looked just for beauty, which in itself is meaningful in the sportsman's world. Instead of merely shooting the golfer blasting out of the sand trap, he widened his scope and took pictures like the one on the opposite page, which shows the great Ben Hogan's follow-through after driving from the eighth tee in the Masters Tournament. But it shows more than that. It shows the nature of the hole, the kind of day it was and the stature of the man himself through the size and tenseness of the watching crowd.
August 14, 1955
And so it is with the 30 other examples of color photography from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S first year which are reproduced (mostly in miniature) on the next eight pages. Each in its own way captures a meaning—a meaning and a mood—of excitement, violence, serenity, majesty, eloquently characteristic of the sport itself.
These are the new-found patterns of the photographer's art. And how, but in pictures like these, could one know and truly feel the stylish arrogance of the bullfighter, the aloneness of a man in the surf, or the ultimate grace of a figure skater?
Since all of the examples of the new sports photographer's work shown here are in color, it is of historical importance to point out that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is actually a pioneer in color sports photography. From its first issue it has printed a sizable budget of color pages as well as the weekly SPECTACLE, which is a journalistic innovation.
Journalistic innovations are rarely accidents, so it would be of value at least journalistically, if not historically, to include in this essay on patterns in sport the thinking about SPECTACLE that was put down on paper before its advent.
Sport, in all its endless variety, is always something to be seen. It is magic to the eye. It lingers in the lifelong treasury of vision. And so, of course, in this great age of photography, the magazine of sports must be SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. And not only must it have many, many moments of vision throughout its pages; there must be one place in the magazine where sport is saluted by a burst of the very greatest color photography. This spot in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED we call SPECTACLE.
Spectacle and spectacular are words inherent in sport. The spectacular takes many forms. At opposite extremes there are:
1) The vast arena where countless thousands come together to share the sight of the completed pass or the knockout punch or the photo-finish.
2) The solitary individual, the man alone with his sail in the Gulf Stream, the man alone with his hunting dog in the piny wood.
For the man alone, all nature becomes his private vision, his unique communion. Of a sudden, in the piny wood, the quiet symphony of ordered peace flares into drama; 20 quail whirl up and about the lonely man and streak like brown lightning through the autumn twilight; his heart pounds and his eyes remember ever after that kaleidoscopic universe in the piny wood.
In 52 weeks SPECTACLE will bring outstanding instances both of the tensely congregated scene and of the lonely vision. These extremes only illustrate the breadth of SPECTACLE'S assignment. SPECTACLE has many tasks to do. It has a technical task: to show, for example, exactly how a pitcher pitches; to freeze a fish in the arc of Us leap. These are sights which the human mind may sense but which the human eye itself cannot see.
The pleasant scenery of sport, the congregations of sportsmen, the drama, the emotions, the history-making instants, the wonder and the beauty of sport—for all of this SPECTACLE has a perpetual hunting license to become itself an outstanding weekly event in the calendar of sport.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S photographers, those pictured on this page and others, made good use of this hunting license.
Panorama in blue catches the climactic moment of a collegiate sporting classic as Yale's crew leads Harvard down a flag-draped lane of horn-tooting spectator yachts.
Catlike leaps of jai alai players are frozen in a study of agility and grace.
Jungle portrait of an African tusker, trouble by the ton, was taken by the late, incomparable Ylla.
Fury and Finesse are depicted, respectively, by the charging bull and the Mexican matador Carlos Vera before finale of the bull ring drama.
A happy landing of two jumpers dramatizes beauty of the steeplechase.
Stance and timing of Stan Musial of St. Louis Cardinals, one of baseball's greatest hitters, are here demonstrated as he coils, shifts weight, swings and connects.
A Remington painting of the Old West is suggested by the camera's composition of furious rodeo action with the clawing hoofs of wild horses scattering the cowhands.
Woodland tapestry is created by wild turkey, hunter and green forest.
Geometric design emerges from hockey action and a goalie's great save.
Setting for tragedy is this scene at the start of the 24-hour sports car race at Le Mans, France, where this year 82 persons were killed as car plunged into crowd.
Streaking beauty of the plunging greyhounds, born and bred to run, is enhanced by a jewellike string of lights overhead and the golden cast of the track's packed silt.
Noiseless world is the domain of the sailplane, free rider of air currents.
Explosive violence of this photograph of first Marciano-Charles match made Jack Dempsey exclaim: "The only way to get closer to a fight than this is to be in it!"
High aspiration is denied as Pole Vaulter Bob Owen knocks down crossbar.
Elegance of tennis is symbolized by ivied Wimbledon's sacred lawns.
Peacocks of sport are the jockeys, who wear their dazzling crazy quilts of color primarily to identify their stables but, in the process, create a striking race track picture.
Camera illusion makes bicycle riders in race at the British Empire Games appear to be standing still while spectators seated in the grandstand seem to be flying by.
Picture of perfection is captured in superb dive of Pat McCormick.
Dream of flying is man's fondest, and to this skier, etched against the brilliant blue of a winter sky in Oregon, it is, for one click of a camera, a dream come true.
Jumping giants of professional basketball strike their tableaulike attitudes.
Time stands still for fishermen lucky enough to find paradise like this inlet of a wilderness bay in Wisconsin.
Feel of summer is perfectly conveyed by billowing sails and the blue water and a sky filled with drifting, cotton-candy clouds.
Action of autumn is found in this close-up of hard-charging football that is duplicated in other jam-packed stadiums, on other Saturdays, throughout the nation.
Beauty of simplicity is Spelled out by a sextet of Swedish girl gymnasts.
Shadow and substance of the figure 8 are are caught by an earlymorning sun as 19-year-old Tenley Albright practices at rink in Catskills.