Although Richard B. Woodward has gained acclaim as a writer on photography, his favorite sports memory reflects an image on a TV screen. "I watched the Thrilla in Manila  in the pouring rain," says Woodward, whose essay on sports photography begins on page 74. "I was in Amsterdam, and there was a cluster of us outside a TV store. We stood there for an hour and a half in the rain, watching this amazing fight." Woodward, 51, has been a visiting critic at the Rhode Island School of Design. He's now working on a book about why certain pictures become iconic, but when it comes to his personal favorites, he admits, his reasoning is not terribly sophisticated. "I like old photographs," says Woodward, "because they remind me of when I was a kid."
His assignment: to find the best photos ever published in SI. It took Adam Stoltman four months to go through 50 years of SI page by page, and his first edit defined the ambition of this special issue. "It was one of the truly extraordinary tasks I've ever had to do," says Stoltman, a former deputy picture editor at SI. "I enjoyed being with the ghosts of the past."
A photography buff in his spare time, writer-reporter Gene Menez combined his interests in words and pictures when he worked with Neil Leifer, who has shot 169 SI covers since 1961. Menez's account of the stories behind seven Leifer photos begins on page 94. "I've always thought I was a photographer in a previous life," says Menez, who joined SI in 1998. "After speaking with Neil, I really hope I was."