Neil Leifer is considered one of the greatest sports photographers of all time. His picture of Ali standing over Sonny Liston is the epitome of iconic. It’s one of the most memorable sports photographs ever. And there’s a lesson I want to teach from it.
It’s not about the process.
Do you know what brand of camera Neil used back then? We know he shot film. What kind? What speed? What was the aperture and shutter speed? Who developed the film? Did they use any special developer chemicals? Where did he get prints made? What type of paper? What type of enlarger?
These are the kinds of questions most of my audience would ask today – but they’d have a more modern spin. Aperture or Lightroom? What plug-ins? etc.
The thing is – IT’S NOT ABOUT THE PROCESS!
Nobody cares which camera or film or shutter speed Neil used to make this image – it’s the IMAGE that counts. It’s about the impact of capturing a moment in time that will live on forever. It’s about a photo that will live on past all of us. The processes used won’t even be known to people generations from now who see the picture. All that they will know is that in the 1960s, a boxer named Ali dominated and the moment was captured for generations that will follow to see.
It was a precise moment in time that has been preserved forever. I’ve seen Neil Leifer interviewed about this picture many times. I’ve even spoken with him personally. At no time have I ever heard him talking film stock or developer or shutter speed. Instead, he talks about the relationship he had with the moment and the man – Ali.
It’s the picture that counts. It’s the picture that counts. It’s the picture that counts. (Yes I meant to say that three times because I want to get through the clutter and the noise and share the most important thing I know about photography.) It IS the PICTURE that COUNTS! For those of you who say you are serious about this stuff – stop wasting time thinking about, talking about, arguing about – dreaming about – the process and start thinking about protecting moments.