Before digital photography, every picture that ran in the pages of SI, like the one above of Yogi, had a physical counterpart—a slide (many of them Kodachromes, as famously sung about by Paul Simon). The thing about slides, beyond the obvious that you could touch them and hold them up to the light, was that you could scribble notes on them. You might use the slide mount to jot down a quick description of what's happening in the photo. You could give the mount a RETURN to stamp, if you were messengering the slide across town in those days before e-mail. And if the framed photo was a classic—say, Walter Iooss Jr.'s shot of the 49ers' Dwight Clark making "The Catch"—you would see that mount become tagged with so many stickers marking its repeated usage in the magazine that the slide would come to resemble a steamer trunk returned from a journey around the world in an even earlier time.
Today SI catalogs its photos in an electronic database—which is infinitely more efficient than the old filing cabinets full of slides, but not nearly as much fun. With the distance of time, though, these slides can be viewed in a new way: as tiny objects of art. These artifacts of a rapidly receding era of magazine publishing brim with a found beauty; a humble cardboard square somehow fuses a photographic moment with its slowly accumulating embellishments of history.
The appreciation that follows on these pages will also be presented in longer form in a new book, Slide Show (SI Books, May 2009), conceived and designed by then creative director, now special contributor Steven Hoffman and researched and written by associate editor Bill Syken. As with the small collection you see here, the book is a portfolio, a history and an investigation all at the same time (not to mention a reminder of all the crap you learned in high school transformed by photography into a sunny day).