Rich Clarkson took his first photograph of Jim Ryun in 1963. It showed a gawky high school sophomore standing with other members of the Wichita East High School two-mile relay team at the Kansas Relays. Since then Photographer Clarkson has taken approximately 9,700 pictures of Runner Ryun, including this week's cover and the one that leads off Jack Olsen's story on page 64. It so happens that Ryun has also taken a few of Clarkson. Ryun is a part-time employee of Clarkson's at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where Rich has been Director of Photography since 1964, and the two are close friends. Their relationship, a relaxed and good-humored one, is the sort that several SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writers and photographers have achieved with some of the liveliest figures in contemporary sport, contributing mightily, we think, to SI's capacity to get at the truth.
Clarkson, who sold his first newspaper photograph when he was a Lawrence, Kans. high school sophomore and sold his first picture to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED eight years later in 1956, got to know Ryun while shooting an SI cover photograph of the young runner in August 1964, just before the final Olympic trials. Clarkson went to the trials in Los Angeles and was a reassuringly familiar figure to the 17-year-old boy who might have easily been intimidated by the tension and the presence of celebrated rivals. After Ryun had made the team he and his parents invited Clarkson to join them for a low-key celebration. Rich has since done a good deal of celebrating with the Ryuns as Jim's career has catapulted from one triumph to another.
Clarkson first ignited Ryun's interest in photography by suggesting that Jim do for the Capital-Journal an illustrated diary of his trip to Kiev last summer for the annual dual meet with the Russians. "I had two one-hour sessions with him," recalls Clarkson. "In the first hour I tried to teach him how to photograph. In the second, what to photograph. That's not much time, but I gave him 12 rolls of film, and 90% of what he shot was perfect."
Ryun worked this winter as both office boy and photographer for the Capital-Journal and, despite many offers to compete in Europe, will be on the job this summer. "He may have learned too well," says Clarkson. "More than once his photographs have bounced mine off page one of our sports section."
June 19, 1966
Clarkson, of course, is being modest. Since his hauntingly lonely picture essay on high school basketball, The Only Game in Panguitch, Utah (SI, March 4, 1963), Rich has become the magazine's busiest photographer around basketball arenas. He photographed the last four NCAA basketball finals, and twice—he triumphantly points out—his pictures made the cover. Clarkson counts his records as carefully as his good friend, Jim Ryun.
We have a pleasant item of news for the great number of friends, admirers and critics that Tex Maule has acquired over the years as one of the most gifted and provocative writers on this magazine. Tex is back at work, having recovered from the serious heart attack he suffered last March; for proof, turn to page 15.