Walter Iooss is one of the sports world’s most respected photographers and perhaps the single most successful sports photographer in advertising today. He’s shot more than 300 Sports Illustrated covers (his first at the age of 19), contributed to the magazine’s Swimsuit Issue for 30-plus years, and published 13 books—including The New York Times #1 bestseller "Rare Air: Michael on Michael" in 1993, "Athlete" in 2008, and "Heaven" in 2010—and he has shot campaigns for clients ranging from the Esquire Network, to Coca-Cola, Adidas, Nike, Oakley, Canon, to Gatorade, the National Milk Council, and Kellogg’s. His work has been exhibited at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.
"The action comes to him, and he never misses. No one shoots like him," says Sports Illustrated’s longtime director of photography, Steve Fine. "He's an artist who is quite possibly the greatest sports photographer ever."
Walter was just 17 when he embarked on his photography career—his first assignment was for Sports Illustrated—and the intervening decades have only deepened his love of the medium. You can see it in his various personal projects, whether it’s his handmade, collaged diaries or his ongoing series on Montauk, where he and his family bought a house in 1977. "Photography is not a job. It’s a way of life," he notes. "I live it, think it, and feel it. It's just in my DNA."
Even though Walter has photographed the world’s biggest sports stars, there are still subjects on his wish list. "If I could shoot anyone today, it would be Bob Dylan. I love Bob Dylan. There’s someone. I mean…what a career," he says. "My father was a jazz musician, so I’ve always loved musicians. I have shot musicians, but it was a long time ago. I photographed Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Sonny and Cher for Atlantic Records. I like Pharrell also. He seems like a cool guy.
"You know, musicians and athletes, they live the same life almost," he continues. "They’re off in their groups, they’re isolated, they’re on the road. Drinking, drugs, chicks… It’s all the same."