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|| News Item: Posted 1999-11-15

Leading Off: What Makes a Great Sports Picture?
By Robert Hanashiro

Photo by Ronald C. Modra

Photo by Ronald C. Modra
It seemed like a simple task: make a "list of great sports images from the past 20 years." That was the job Photo District News senior editor Michael Applebaum bestowed upon me recently for PDN's 20th anniversary issue. Now I know how a writer feels when his annual Hall of Fame ballot arrives in the mail.

Of course in the tradition of all great photographers I procrastinated. So a week before my deadline, I gathered up every photography annual and collection, back issue of Sports Illustrated, The National, Sporting News and News Photographer magazine I had in the house. Visits to the Los Angeles public library, going through back issues of the several newspapers consumed my evenings.

And during my search for the "best" of the past 20 years I started thinking how I would define "the best."

One thing for sure, a lot happens in sports during two decades. (And no, Neil Leifer's classic photo of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston didn't qualify ... it happened in 1965.)

Photo by
Of course there are a few photos that one would ASSUME to be automatic ... Heinz Kluetmeier's 1980 image of the U.S. hockey team upsetting Russia; Jed Jacobsohn's horrific frame of Evander Holyfield's ear after Mike Tyson took a bite out of it and Ron Modra's 1988 SI cover of Ben Johnson leading the field in Olympic 100 meters (a pan that all others are now compared to).

But I discovered that some of these "memorable moments" have two or three or even four photographers who have recorded them. Is there a difference in the two images of Seattle's Xavier McDaniel choking the Lakers' Wes Mathews? Which one of the FOUR versions of Atlanta catcher Greg Olson standing on his head after a home plate collision in the 1991 World Series do you prefer? Is Brandi Chastain celebrating her World Cup winning penalty kick better from the side or straight on?

Being a newsman first (the root word of photojournalist is JOURNALIST), I also looked at the images from the top sports news events of the past 20 years. From John Storey's dark and moody "The Catch" (49er receiver Dwight Clark stretching for a last minute TD against the Cowboys in the'82 NFC Championship Game) to Fernando Medina's "Where's Waldo-esque" image of Michael Jordan's final shot of his career in the '98 NBA Finals (I LOVE this frame just to look at all of the different emotions on the faces of the crowd in the background).

One of the thoughts that also kept rattling around in my head was the notion that were thousands of sports images I had no access to and had never seen. Is a photo of a prep player diving for a loose ball published in the Smallville Gazette any better than Sam Forencich's moment of Dennis Rodman suspended in the air, horizontal to the floor as he grabs the ball before it goes out of bounds?

Photo by John Storey/SF Examiner

Photo by John Storey/SF Examiner
Is the emotional Bruce Chambers' photo Mary Decker weeping as she lays prone on the LA Coliseum infield after tripping and falling in the 1984 Olympics any better than a comparable image of a junior college runner published in a school newspaper?

One picture editor I discussed this quandary with took a variation of the "publish or parish" theme ... if nobody sees the photo, is it really a good one?

All in all I compiled a list of 13 images. PDN editors will have the final say in what they publish in their special anniversary issue. It'll be interesting to see which (if any) of my baker's dozen makes the cut. At worst, I guess I saved them a few hundred in research fees.

* * *

Sports Shooter v.14 debuts a periodic column by freelance photographer Rick Rickman. Rick will enlighten and amuse us from time to time with his take on the business of photography.

This issue also is heavy on the tech side with the announcement by Kodak of their long awaited DCS520/D2000 and DCS620 firmware update and new acquire software. We also have a user's report on Nikon's new D1 digital camera from Charles Krupa of the Associated Press.

A special report on the recent Breeders Cup by Todd Buchanan and his general tips on covering horse racing continues a Sports Shooter tradition of giving you information about a variety of sports and events.

Sports Shooter is also proud to announce the details for our 2nd annual contest.

So sit back, adjust the brightness on your computer monitor, turn down that new "Alice In Chains" CD and enjoy Sports Shooter v.14.

Robert Hanashiro
Editor & Publisher

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