Picture Perfect Combining his favorite photos and memories, SI photographer Walter Iooss has created a work of art

December 30, 2002

If Walter Iooss doesn't have the best job in creation, the guy
who does is having way too much fun. As an SI photographer, Iooss
takes portraits of the world's greatest athletes and the world's
most ravishing supermodels. Some years back, while photographing
model and actress Carol Alt for a swimsuit issue, he noticed that
she kept a diary in which she would paste Polaroids of the jobs
she worked on, giving her a record of her life. It occurred to
Iooss that his life was worth keeping a record of too, so he
began stashing prints of his favorite photos in a journal. As
time went on, Iooss decorated these pictures with pen-and-ink
illuminations, made collages and occasionally scribbled comments
in the margins to explain the circumstances surrounding the
shoots. The resulting book--Sporting Life--is a unique and
intimate work of art.

Even without Iooss's added touches, the book is an intriguing
collection of photographs. There's Magic Johnson demonstrating
the baby skyhook, Kathy Ireland strolling nearly naked in the
Waikiki twilight, Michael Jordan celebrating one of his
innumerable triumphs with cigars and champagne in his room at the
Phoenix Ritz-Carlton, and Mario Andretti feeding a pig by hand.
Equally riveting are Iooss's noncelebrity photos, including an
essay on Venice that captures a romantic one-day sojourn he took
there with his wife, Eva.

There is little explanatory text accompanying the pictures, but
when Iooss does take to writing, he discusses topics only he
would be privy to: Such as, supermodels get cranky when you make
them crawl in the surf on all fours and there are times when you
have to think of something to say to Joe Montana so he'll hang
around long enough for the sun to drop and provide perfect light.

The more time you spend with the book--and you will spend time,
as strumming through its pages is a mesmerizing experience--the
more you realize that it is less about what Iooss thinks of his
pictures than what he feels about them. What he feels is
exhilaration and wonder, emotions you will share as well.

COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. WHAT A KICK Shooting Fernando Hierro in Madrid left Iooss with these impressions.