The photographer behind some of the most memorable sports photographs over the last 50 years will arrive in Bermuda today to share his work and experiences as a leading photographer as a guest of Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
Neil Leifer, who became a professional photographer in 1960 while still in his teens, will share some of his most memorable images — some famous boxing photos of Muhammad Ali among them — during an exhibition of his work in the Rick Faries Gallery at the Botanical Gardens. Tomorrow Leifer will hold a lecture and slide show entitled “An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse” when he will speak about the assignment he was given by NBC to photograph the US athletes who medalled at the London Olympics last year.
Although Leifer has moved from still photography to movies, the notion of capturing the athletes at the top of their game was impossible to resist. With slides and anecdotal stories, Leifer will walk through the process of photographing such athletes at Gabby Douglas, Serena Williams and Ryan Lochte.
Since becoming a professional photographer over 50 years ago, Leifer’s work has appeared regularly in every major national magazine, including the Saturday Evening Post, Look, LIFE, Newsweek, Time and most regularly in Sports Illustrated.
Leifer eventually became a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated before leaving in 1978 to become a staffer for Time magazine. In 1988 he was made a contributing photographer at LIFE magazine and spent the next two years dividing his time between Time and LIFE. When he left Time Inc. in 1990, his photographs had appeared on over 200 Sports Illustrated, Time and People covers — at that point the most ever published of one photographer’s work in Time Inc history.
Leifer has published 16 books, nine of which have been collections of his sports photographs. Sports, his 1978 book, is considered by many to be the quintessential sports photography book. His two most recent books, Ballet in the Dirt and Guts and Glory, both published by TASCHEN, showcase the very best of Leifer’s professional baseball and American football photographs. This fall, Sports Illustrated will publish a memoir on Neil Leifer’s remarkable career.
The veteran photographer has travelled all over the world on sports assignments, photographing 16 Olympic Games (seven winter, nine summer), four World Cups, 15 Kentucky Derbies, countless World Series games, the first 10 Super Bowls and every important heavyweight title fight since Floyd Paterson beat Ingerman Johanson to regain the title in 1960. Leifer has photographed his favourite subject, Muhammad Ali, on almost 60 different occasions, covering his biggest fights and over 30 one-on-one studio sessions.
While Leifer is now a full-time filmmaker, producer and director, there is a very good chance that he will still be spotted, camera in hand, at any big championship fight.
“Boxing,” says Leifer, “is the one sport I still love shooting.”