It did not seem all that unusual when Staff Photographer Walter Iooss Jr. recently appeared in the office only hours after marrying Evelyne Faase, a former model from The Netherlands. The unconventional and unexpected make Iooss (rhymes with gross) what he is: very cool, very hip and very professional. Two examples of his work are the L.A. Open coverage on page 14 and the Spring Training essay on page 30.
"Walter likes to do things in a different way," says Jim Cummings, a former apartment mate and a photographer himself. The differences include approach, for Iooss is one of the last photographers to arrive at an event and one of the most meagerly equipped when he gets there. "I lose my edge if I sit around waiting," he explains, "and I never carry more than two cameras, because mobility is the key. If I can get to a spot before anyone else, I'll get the unusual picture others will miss."
In his 13 years working for SI, Iooss has produced 85 covers, some of our finest action shots, notable essays and not a few controversial pictures, including those in the recent bathing suit issue.
Iooss was born 31 years ago in Temple, Texas, but did most of his growing up in East Orange, N.J., where he interrupted stickball games to take his first sports action pictures. Now he and his wife and their foxhound Waldo live in a spacious apartment on Manhattan's Riverside Drive, where plants and scenic photographs abound in an effort "to bring the outdoors indoors." He is keenly interested in music, not unusual for the son of a bass player who toured with Benny Goodman. When he travels he is never without his tapes, and at home he has six recorders, two turntables, two amplifiers, a mixer and some 600 albums and singles. Now and then, in fanciful flights as Soul Foot or Mr. R & R, Iooss will simulate radio programs in which he plays music and conducts interviews with visitors to his studio: Henry and Nancy, Roy and Trigger, King Faisal.
This breezy approach to life has helped him get close to such ordinarily aloof people as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dick Allen, and even hyperactive Lee Trevino was so at ease during a cover session that he dozed off. Iooss' concomitant ability to work hard and skillfully has gained him assignments to illustrate various books, among them Walt Frazier's Rockin' Steady: a Guide to Basketball & Cool, a natural for this super loose, super hoop fan.
Walter insists that "photography is the only thing in life I do not compromise on. If I'm covering a big game I'll go to bed early the night before. I stayed out late once to take a debutante to see Smokey and the Miracles, but never again. I wound up getting the cover but it was an accident."
The apparent paradox—flip personality, serious worker—is perhaps best explained by Associate Editor Roy Blount Jr. "We were supposed to meet Dick Allen at Santa Anita to see him with his horses," Blount says, "but we were lost for half a day. Some people might have been worried but not Walter. I think he liked it. If you know you're going to be ready for the vivid moments, you can enjoy the idle ones."