Most people would agree that the seven pages of striking color photographs devoted to the racecourse at Chantilly in this issue are the work of an artist. One man we know would dissent. He is a tall, quiet-spoken, imperturbable man named Jerry Cooke. In dissenting, he would speak with considerable authority. He took the pictures.
"I do not look upon photography as art," Cooke says, "and I do not consider photographers to be artists. I look upon myself as a journalistic craftsman. A true artist creates from scratch. A journalistic photographer captures on film whatever he sees with his eyes. His skill lies often in a split-second selection—or rejection—of images and movements."
The craftsmanship of Jerry Cooke (to let him have his word) is the centerpiece of an issue that represents the most searching look at Thoroughbred horse racing SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has ever published. This is as it should be, for interest in racing is at an alltime high. Moreover, this is the week of the Belmont Stakes at Aqueduct, in which a courageous little colt named Northern Dancer, winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, goes for the Triple Crown, something no horse has won since the great Citation did it in 1948. Riding The Dancer, as he did at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, will be Bill Hartack, who appears on this week's cover. In the field with him will be Hill Rise and Jockey Willie Shoemaker, who may be seen peering through Cooke's camera on this page.
Naturally, in this issue there is a preview of the Belmont; there is an authoritative critique of racing by Owner E. Barry Ryan and a controversial redefinition of it from Trainer Buddy Jacobson. Finally, there is a detailed and entertaining excursion, with Huston Horn as guide, through the world of little men who ride big horses.
After you have savored the full racing package, we suspect you may want to take a second look at the Chantilly pictures. The seven pages Jerry Cooke has filled so beautifully do not comprise the longest photo essay he has ever done for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, but they are characteristic of his art (or craft). In 1957 Cooke toured the Soviet Union and returned with a historic first: a report documenting the tremendous Russian drive for physical fitness and for world supremacy in sports. His words and pictures added up to a 26-page package that the Overseas Press Club drew upon for a one-man show in New York.
Cooke has carried out more than 300 assignments for us. They have taken him to every continent, to 45 countries. Born in 1921 of Russian parents, he attended school in Germany, Italy, India and the U.S.—a fact that explains in part his fluency in five languages, an ability that frequently (in Russia, for instance) disarms reluctant or suspicious subjects.
This week Cooke will be at the Belmont with a special gleam in his eye. His pictures at the Derby and at the Preakness were selected over the work of others to lead off SI's coverage of those events. At the Belmont, Jerry Cooke, along with Bill Hartack and Northern Dancer, will be shooting for his own Triple Crown.