Walter Iooss


Somewhere around 1970 something, I had a Sports Illustrated assignment with Walter Ioos and we were up in Boston. If you don’t know who Walter is, he’s probably one of the greatest all around photographers in the last 40 years. Walter is a true Renaissance man. When he puts his mind to it, and his eye to it, he can photograph anything, and pretty much better than anyone else. Walter, by the way, had no secrets. He shared all of his inside tracts on how to make a great photo. He has a great level of confidence.

After a long day of shooting, we decided to have dinner on the north side of Boston, and Walter was astounded that I dragged along my camera. He said “How come you’re taking your camera?” I explained to him, you’ll never know when you will run into something you want to photograph. I think he thought it was pretty funny.

On my way to get a Fed Ex, I went to the door, and looked at a cluttered kitchen. My eye was grabbed by an orchid that was having its water changed. I went back to my office, and I took a couple of snaps. I think of it as an exercise, an exercise in visual literacy, or looking from the inside out.

30 Years and Nothing Has Changed

As a photographer, one of the first things you learn is eye-hand coordination. Your ability to look at 300 people, 7 people, front-lit, back-lit, and see the photo that you want to make. And before you can even think about it, you’ve made 3 or 4, each one a variation of a theme, not just a motor sequence. Making back lit adjustments on the fly, always thing about where the next photograph is going to come. That’s the good news. The bad news can be all of those things that work against you. And you miss the obvious. It’s happened to me before, and I’m pretty sure it’ll happen to me again. You never want to have blinders on. You want to be open to new lighting, new composition, new stories, and new direction. Invariably, you will grow and your work will improve accordingly. While looking at this very beautiful young lady and preparing to do a very shallow, depth of field simple photograph, I look down and to my right and saw one eye and one sideburn and a little bit of a mustache. I said “Oh my god, could that be Melchior  DiGiacomo?” I took the photograph, looked down, I tapped him on the shoulder, and he said “Joe D., just a minute”. I guess it’s like two chubby italians meeting in the daylight, or is that two ships in the night? I can never get it right. The funny thing about it is I haven’t seen Melchoir in 30 years. And my god, nothing’s changed! It’s good that there is some consistency in this universe.