Third Greatest Indy 500 Photographs in the last 100 Years

S.I. Indy Third Greatest Photograph in 100 yearsR

© Joe DiMaggio All Rights Reserved

Most photographers spend the majority of their time building their photographic reputation for decades. Occasionally the sun, the moon and the stars are in perfect alignment and a photographer will come up with their definitive photograph that particular day. Like many things in my career, I’ve had some amazing mentors who taught me the ins and outs of a venue like the Indianapolis 500 Raceway- Rex Miller, Jim Arnett, Jim Schweiker, Chuck Robinson, Ron Thompson… to name a few. On this particular day, I was on assignment for Sports Illustrated. I had a game plan, photographing the start from the crow’s nest. At the end of twenty laps, I ran down to turn one where I “accidentally” cut a small hole in the fence (I do not recommend this), shot another thirty laps, then worked my way around to turn three and then into the pits. I started from the last pit and worked up to the first; halfway back the gasoline alley, I climbed the pagoda to shoot the finish. It was the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis 500 up to 1982. I had a great assistant- Rex Miller’s, son Geoff Miller. A little bit of luck? Lots of practice, lots of preproduction. Know your spot, know your focal length, know your exposure. Don’t freeze, make your photo, get on the learjet and bring it back to New York. This is another short excerpt from my memoirs, not the whole story. To all the ships at sea, great shooting and have a wonderful day. Joe D.

You May Not Believe in God

 

©Joe DiMaggio

©Joe DiMaggio

I consider myself extremely lucky, and without plagiarizing Lou Gehrig, I’m one of the luckiest people in the world.  I’ve received 3 doctorate degrees over my years of traveling this blue marble they call the Earth.  Another reason I consider myself very lucky is I have great friends.  The majority of them are either scientists or artists, but all of them, to a man and a woman, are considerably smarter than I am.  It’s a good thing to have highly intelligent friends because I never stop learning.  What the hell does this have to do with God?  When you look at a lion in the middle of the jungle, and you look into the lion’s eyes, it’s one of the most amazing visions you’ll ever see.  The lion will look back at you, and you will feel terror, fear, love, and respect at the same time.   But the majesty, the beauty, the strength, is off the charts.  The lion didn’t get the name “King of the Beasts” because it was a flea.  I would like to share with you a few photographs.

Under normal circumstances, I would try not to judge my fellow man.  But I’m going to make an exception on this low life piece of s*** who chose to wound a beautiful animal, and then take a half a day to kill it.  If I could get my hands on him, I’d put an arrow to his thigh close to his groin, and watch him take a day to die.  God forgive me for a bad thought.  In case anybody hasn’t figured it out, we are killing this planet.  Everyday, we’re killing this planet.  There’s an old cliche, people who live in glass houses should not throw rocks, so in the interest of being open and above board, there was a period of time in the 70’s that I would fish for large game fish.  Every ounce of those fish were eaten and nothing went to waste.  The only reason that this even happened is because I was filming for Sports Illustrated, HBO, Discovery Channel, etc., etc., etc..  99.9% of every fish I caught was tagged and released.  For the record today, if I go fishing, I fish with a camera only.

©Joe DiMaggio

©JoAnne Kalish

©Joe DiMaggio

©Joe DiMaggio

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©Unknown

 

Indy 500 Month of May

10 Greatest Indy Moments Indy Finish © Joe DiMaggio

10 Greatest Indy Moments
Indy Finish © Joe DiMaggio

S.I. Indy Third Greatest Photograph in 100 years © DiMaggioIt’s the month of May, and the Month of May means the Indianapolis 500. Sports Illustrated, selected one of my photographs as the third greatest photographs in the last 100 years of the Indianapolis 500.  As we know Sports Illustrated, is the definitive expert on all things photographic and sports oriented. Now at this point, I have to take my humility and modesty, and for a few seconds and put them aside. Personally, I think it’s the best photograph in the last 100 years. Putting that photograph aside for a moment, let me share one of my favorite photographs of the Indianapolis 500.  In 19?? AJ Floyt passed the start-finish line (before the days of radio transmission) screaming at 185 miles per hour, waving his arms.  At the next lap he came into the pit  – there was no speed limit and he came in at 150mph and slammed on his brakes. He screamed at the top of his lungs that he only had two gears and his linkage was hung up!  There was nothing his crew could immediately do, so he got back in the car, went back on the track (while still screaming I add.) He made another lap, and came back in; only this time he took his belt off. By the time he hit the brake box, he had jumped out of his number 14 racer, removed his helmet (almost knocking me over), grabbed a hammer, and started to beat the linkage to death.  When he was satisfied, he put his helmet back on, & jumped back into his car.

A.J Foyt Indy © Joe DiMaggio

A.J Foyt Indy © Joe DiMaggio

Neil Leifer, One of a Kind

There’s no doubt that Neil Leifer is one of the all time great sports photographers.  I’m pretty sure he has at least half a million Sports Illustrated covers alone, and I think it’s fair to say that there aren’t any weak ones.  Neil came up with what I consider a great documentary on four photographers who have photographed every super bowl.  Photographers and filmmakers should have great hand-eye coordination and should always be in the right place at the right time.  Neil knows how to do that, but he goes one step further, he’s a visionary.  I would imagine hundreds of photographers would have said, “Wow, I wish I would have thought of that.”  He thought of that and made it happen.  His film is called Keepers of the Streak features the only four photographers in the world that have covered all 48 Super Bowls, starting from one in 1967 to 2014.  It stars Walter Iooss, Mickey Palmer, Tony Tomsic, and John Biever.

 

©NeilLeifer

©NeilLeifer

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Oh My God, it’s May!

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

To all the ships at sea,

If it’s May, it has to be the Indianapolis 500. This photograph was selected by Sports Illustrated as the third greatest photograph in the last 100 years of the 500. They reproduced it in the centennial issue and on their website. That’s the good news, the bad news is they never asked me. Does the word “copyright” mean anything to anyone? Who said “power to the people”? No, it’s “power to the corporation”, step on all the people. In this society, we all have to play by the same rules. Actually, I think someone wrote that in the Constitution. To my friends; go out and make some great photos. Capture history with a camera. Life is good, life is great. Health and happiness to everybody, even SI.

I Really Did Invent the GoPro—NOT

© Joe DiMaggio

We always want photography to be fun; if it’s not fun then why do it? On an assignment for Sports Illustrated on the first great woman drag racer of our times, Shirley Muldowney, I spent a week with her and it was just pure fun. It was after her horrific crash in 1984, yet she maintained a light, airy persona and was genuinely warm, friendly, and cooperative; until I mentioned that I wanted to mount a camera on the nose of her Top Fuel Dragster. In many ways, Shirley was a hero to me. She was a great spokesman for the sport, and a great role model for women. On the first run with the camera mounted on the nose of the Dragster, the torque and power snapped a quarter twenty bolt and the camera fell over and almost hit the cement. The safety wire stopped it from becoming a photographic hand grenade. On that note, let’s always remember; safety first, photography second. After talking with her engineer we decided to take the nose cone off and bolt the camera directly to the rail. The camera we used was a Nikon F with motor and a 16mm lens. Photos were taken on Kodachrome 64 with an exposure of f16 at 1/60 of a second, tripped with an old fashioned module light.

© Joe DiMaggio

I Invented the GoPro— NOT

© Joe DiMaggio

One of the greatest assignments I had an opportunity to do was a three-week assignment for Sports Illustrated on three brothers, the Whittington brothers, who inherited nine hundred million dollars. They had an affinity for cars, planes, and all things exciting.  Their 1979 Le Mans entrance won first in their class. A small part of my assignment was to have the three cars together at speed, so I ordered a Mitchell mount from California, mounted a Nikon f2 with a motor with a 15mm lens, and a remote cord into the compartment where I sat on four roll bars. I explained that we only needed to go 40 to 50 miles an hour. Unfortunately, race cars like to grip at much higher speeds. We did one pass at about 100 miles an hour, I changed film, and on the second pass, I could feel the remote button and my camera was out of film. I believe my quote was “we can go back to the pits, I’m done”. I will never ever use those words again. Bill Whittington kicked in the turbo and we went from 100 to 160 in what seemed like a millisecond, until the rear end broke loose (please keep in mind, he had on his Nomex, his balaclava, his gloves, his helmet, and all of his racing belts. I had beech nut gum and a death grip on the roll cage). He took the emergency road, locked up all the brakes, came to a full stop, popped out of the automobile and I was still frozen. Paul Newman looked over and said to me “You must be out of your mind to get in a car with that wild man”. Once again, Paul was right.

As everyone knows, I was brought into the digital world kicking and screaming. Now that I’m working on my memoirs, I realize what  I did with this series cost several thousand dollars and someone could have gotten hurt (namely me). In the world of digital, using two GoPros, one on the front and one on the back of the car would’ve been safer. I don’t have to be in the car, so if they would like to do 180, so be it. The overall cost would be less than $600 with a safety wire. God bless digital.

Shot at 1/15th of a second on Kodachrome 25 at f11.

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio
Paul Newman with Don and Bill Whittington

Sports Illustrated- JoAnne Kalish

Photo Long Beach Grand Prix © JoAnne Kalish
Long Beach Grand Prix Shunt 31 © J.Kalish

© 1978 JoAnne Kalish Long Beach Grand Prix Mario Andretti and James Hunt

The interesting thing about having two photographers in the family is people ask, do we compete? What a silly question. Oops, I forgot, there are no silly questions. Of course we compete. We’re constantly competing, and we all know who is going to win. In the final analysis,  it certainly won’t be me. My partner JoAnne Kalish is great photographer

I’ll tell you a little story. On the inaugural Formula One auto race in Long Beach, California there were approximately 1500 photographers, each one of them looking for the best position for the start of the race to get the definitive Formula One start shot. Photographers like Neil Leifer who is considered one of the finest sports photographers in our time. Neil has a zillion SPORTS ILLUSTRATED covers. Along with Neil, there was Gary Nichermin, Louis Franck, Kevin Fitzgerald, Mike Phillips, myself, and a small, 101 pound JoAnne Kalish. Everybody marked their positions and waited for the cars to let loose with a burst of 36 exposures. There was a loud noise and the screeching of brakes and smoke all over the place. I followed a car moving to my left along with, I don’t know how many other photographers. At the end JoAnne said “Wow, did you get that shunt?” and I said yes, and everybody else said yes. Later on that evening we went to pick up our film, at the lab, and while there, everybody checked their film out on the light boxes provided. JoAnne opens up her first box of slides, and there was the entire motor series of the shunt at the start of the race, with James Hunt’s car literally on one wheel flipping up in the air, which, by the way, Mario Andretti ran double truck in his coffee table book. JoAnne said, “did you guys get this?” We’re all looking around wondering what she’s talking about and sure enough, she has the whole motor series of this shunt. We didn’t get it, we never even saw it. But she nailed it! That’s JoAnne, small ego, great talent. That was the first photo she had published in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and they ran it again in SI’s YEAR IN PICTURES.

There wasn’t another photographer at the race that captured the shots she got!

Bill Eppridge in a Class By Himself

In my career I have been blessed with a few fortunate lucky right place, right time relationships. The first and foremost was attending the University of Missouri school of Journalism Workshop.  It really doesn’t get better than that. The second would be assisting W. Eugene Smith who taught me more about communications then anyone. Actually, he taught me more about many things but for the purpose of this we won’t go there. When asked to deliver a keynote speech at the NPPA, one of the people I thanked was Bill Eppridge. I would love to tell you that I know Bill well but as the truth be known, that’s just is not so. But here’s what I do know. Bill Eppridge has very few peers. He stands alone with his great talent.  He also has another quality that generally photographers don’t have. He’s an extremely humble about what he’s accomplished over the last few decades and he’s still a viable force to be dealt with. Bill invited me to his retrospective at the Fairfield Museum. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. This past Sunday I had a little time off and decided to go to Fairfield, Connecticut to see the show.  I thought I knew exactly what I was going to see. Boy, was I wrong. I had no idea the depth and scope of his work. Like many other photographers, we know about the positive RFK Photos, but the retrospective truly showed what an amazingly great talent he is. This is one of the few times I wish I was a great writer because there aren’t enough adjectives to express what an important body of work he has. Photographer Alfred Eisenstadt, once told me, he had maybe only a dozen fine photographs.  When I had the audacity to tell him, “no you have thousands of great photographs,” he smiled, clicked his heels and said, “one day you will understand.”
Thanks Bill for continuing to teach me the importance and power of a great still image.