Friday 18 Nov, 2011

Photo Finish: The Sports Photography of Neil Leifer at the Newseum

On November 18, 2011 the Newseum in Washington, D.C., will roll out an exhibit sure to excite photography and sports enthusiasts alike!  “Photo Finish: The Sports Photography of Neil Leifer” will feature 50 of the most famous sports photographs ever taken and celebrate the career of a man who is hailed by many as the best sports photographer in history.

Neil Leifer, Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston St. Dominic’s Arena, Lewiston, ME, May 25, 1965

Neil Leifer grew up in New York, New York, and first picked up a camera in his early teens.  When he was 16, he was lucky enough to attend the 1958 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts.  While there, he photographed the game winning touchdown and sold the images to Sports Illustrated.  This would begin his career as a sports photographer and his first cover shot was published in 1962 at the young age of 19.

One of the most famous photos in the exhibit is the shot of Muhammad Ali standing over his opponent Sonny Liston after a knock out in 1965 (pictured above).  As one of only two photographers working with color film at the event, Leifer captured the most memorable picture in the history of sports photography.

Neil Leifer,  Vince Lombardi Sports Illustrated Cover January 22, 1968 issue

Also featured in the exhibit will be Leifer’s shot of Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi being carried off the field after a 1968 Superbowl victory.  The picture was later featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and became a symbol of the football legend’s success.  Football fans will love remembering the iconic coach, especially a year after the Green Bay Packers once again found themselves victorious in a Super Bowl and building a dynasty reminiscent of the one during Lombardi’s reign.

Another one of Leifer’s famous photos featured in the exhibit captures Secretariat en route to winning the 1973 Kentucky Derby.  That is the year the famous horse would go on to win the first U.S. Triple Crown in twenty-five years. (Read out the origins of the Triple Crown in an article from the New York Times.)  Many were amazed at the talent Leifer had in catching moments that happen over a split second and the quality of photos he was able to take of horse racing was no exception.

Neil Leifer Secretariat Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY, May, 5, 1973

From the Olympics to Kentucky Derbies to dozens of World Series and Super Bowls, Neil Leifer has been present to capture moments from every major sporting event that has occurred in the past fifty years.  Everyone will enjoy getting to see the talented photographer’s work, but also in reliving the amazing victories and athletes that have captured our nation’s interest.  Leifer’s work has been featured on over 200 magazine covers from Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, and People.

The best part of the exhibit is that each photograph will include the story behind the image-words that will come from Leifer’s mouth himself.  It’s a great opportunity for both students and adults to hear interesting tidbits about Leifer’s career and what he remembers about the moment he took each of the fifty pictures.  There is also a video displayed featuring Leifer reminiscing on his most famous pictures and subjects.

The exhibit runs until April 12, 2012, and was created in collaboration with Sports Illustrated.  If you are in Washington, D.C., be sure to check out the photographs that captured split-second moments in sports history that will be remembered forever.

Find out more about the Photo Finish exhibit.

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