In the fall of 1942 a young Army corporal stationed at Camp Callan, near San Diego, slipped onto the training grounds during drills and began shooting his fellow soldiers—with a Rolleiflex 120-millimeter camera.
One of the photographs he took that day, a striking black-and-white image of an infantryman with a combat knife clenched between his teeth, landed soon thereafter on the cover of Newsweek. It was the first of nearly 1,800 magazine covers, ranging in subject from Arthur Godfrey to Albert Einstein, that would decorate the career of photographer Ozzie Sweet.
In June of 1947 Sweet created a Newsweek cover shot of Cleveland Indians ace Bob Feller, and a vast new photographic playground was opened to him. Over the next two decades, Sweet captured the athletic heroes of the era on bold oversized color transparencies; in an age of slower film, he pioneered the stylistic technique of "simulated action," which became his trademark. "I'd freeze the frame by freezing the subject," he says. On the following pages, accompanied by Sweet's reminiscences (at the age of 73, he is still happily plying his trade), are some of the memorable images of the 1950s and '60s selected from the Sweet portfolio.
RALPH KINER 1950
"Ralph got a big charge out of it when we surrounded him with these beautiful girls. When we'd finished, he said, 'Ozzie, you sure that's all you need?'—one of the rare times a player wanted to prolong the shooting."
ROBERTO CLEMENTE 1967
" Clemente was thoughtful and very quiet. He'd answer questions, but he wasn't the type to initiate a conversation. He always had a serious expression, but when he held his hat over his heart, it became a special moment."
JIM BROWN 1964
"When I told Jim that it takes acting ability to do simulated action, he smiled and said he'd just done his first role in a movie ['Rio Conchos']. He told me he didn't know how much longer he could go on as a football player."
SANDY KOUFAX 1963
"He was a very temperamental fellow. Very moody. He was like that as an athlete, too. If he was in the right mood, swell, but he sure had his off days. And his off days were way off. On this day he was feeling great."
MAURY WILLS 1963
"I shot this one while lying on the ground. Wills would leap up in the air; the idea was to time the shutter to capture that moment of suspension. In those days, with the slower film speeds, that's how you had to do it."
PAUL HORNUNG 1962
"He was one handsome son of a gun, probably the most handsome profile I ever shot. Like the famous Barrymore profile, he had the famous Hornung profile."
WILLIE AND MARGHUERITE MAYS 1957
"This shot I took in their home—a brownstone in New York, as I recall. She'd done all the decorating. Was that a bedroom or what? And Willie dressed like a sultan. I didn't bring costumes—this is what they wore."