Neil Leifer

Neil Leifer
Neil Leifer
Born December 28, 1942
New York City, New York

Neil Leifer (born December 28, 1942) is a photographer and filmmaker known mainly for his work in the Time Inc. family of magazines. He is generally considered the greatest sports photographer in history.



Early career

As a boy in New York City, Leifer would gain free admission to New York Giants games by pushing the wheelchairs of handicapped patrons into the stadium. Using his free ticket and a camera, he would then position himself on the field with the photographers. He lost his dog at an age of 5 so he will never photograph dogs again. (UTC)Italic textLeifer gained free admission to the 1958 NFL title game between the Giants and Baltimore Colts. This game became famous as the first overtime game in league history. Leifer, on his sixteenth birthday, caught several images of the game winning touchdown which he sold to Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated's editors liked Leifer's work and he quickly became a boy wonder at the magazine. He had his first cover shot in 1962 at age 19.

Leifer studied photography at Henry Street Settlement as a youth.

Sports Illustrated

Leifer was also known for taking risks. For the 1966 heavyweight title fight between Cleveland Williams and Muhammad Ali, he placed a camera in the rafters of the Houston Astrodome in order to get a shot of the canvas when the victor knocked out his competition. His shot of Ali standing over a defeated Williams has been seen by millions.

A year earlier, Leifer was one of the only two photographers with color film in his camera when Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine, and his image of the moment has become not just one of his most famous photos, but one of the most memorable sports photos of all time.

Leifer photographed seven Olympic Games for the magazine and is best known for having followed Muhammad Ali's career from beginning to end. 170 of his pictures have been published on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Time Magazine

In 1978 Leifer left sports for a wider range of assignments with Time Magazine and produced 40 covers for the magazine. His cover subjects have included, President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush, Legendary Alabama Football Coach Bear Bryant, National Rifle Association President Joe Foss, Statue of Liberty's 100th Birthday Celebration, Actors Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood, Pope John Paul II's Visit to America, Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson, New York City Mayor Ed Koch, The Space Shuttle Columbia, President Jimmy Carter, The Animals of Africa, Olympian Carl Lewis, and Actor Paul Newman.

In 1992 Leifer covered both the Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France and the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. The 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia was the fifteenth Olympic Games he has covered.

In later years, Leifer gradually reduced his photography workload, turning his attention to films. He likes to brag that the only pictures he takes anymore are of his grandchildren, although he has been known to come out of retirement for a special cover shoot for Sports Illustrated on rare occasions.

Neil is also known for the help offered to photographers at new venues. His knowledge of all the major sites of events saved many a young shooter, and made his place not only among the greats, but among the "good guys."

Filmmaker and Documentarian

In recent years, Leifer has focused his creativity to the moving image. He is the director, producer and often writer, of noteworthy film including features, shorts, and documentaries.

In 2007, Leifer was shortlisted for the documentary film short Oscar for "Portraits of a Lady" which he directed, and co-produced with Walter Bernard.


  • "I thought it was unprofessional to ask a subject for an autograph or to pose for a picture. But when I got an office next to [legendary LIFE photographer] Alfred Eisenstaedt, that all changed. I'd visit him because I loved listening to his stories, and I started to notice his personal pictures -- Sophia Loren kissing him on the cheek, or a shot of him hanging out with Jack Kennedy, and I started thinking, 'One day I’m going to be an older guy, and I want to be able to show my grandkids what I did during my career.' So from that point on, I ended every session with a picture of me and my subject. This one, from 1966, is one of the very first. I look at it now and I think about how lucky I've been to have photographed Ali for all these years, and to consider him a friend. He is a very special human being. He truly is."[1]

Leifer's Photography Books

Leifer has published sixteen books - among them his best selling 1978 Abrams coffee table book, Sports, a collection of sports photographs, the first of its kind. In 1985, Doubleday published Neil Leifer's Sports Stars. 1992 saw the publication of three new coffee table books: Muhammad Ali - Memories, published by Rizzoli, Safari, a collection of Africa animal pictures published by Reader's Digest, and a new collection of sports pictures, Sports, published by Collins. In September 2001 The Best of Leifer was published by Abbeville Press. The book is a retrospective of Leifer's 40 years as a photojournalist and showcases the best of his sports and non-sports photographs. Leifer's eleventh book, Neil Leifer: Portraits with an Introduction by Tom Brokaw was published by St. Ann’s Press in November 2003. One of only two principal photographers in the TASCHEN $3,000, 75 pound/800 page book on Muhammad Ali’s life entitled GOAT. In September 2006 Abbeville Press published A Year in Sports, a 348-page coffee table book with an Introduction by Frank Deford. In November 2007, TASCHEN published Neil Leifer, Ballet in the Dirt: The Golden Age of Baseball, with an Introduction by Ron Shelton. The book is a collection of Neil’s baseball photographs of the 1960’s and 70’s, the “Golden Age of Baseball”. In November 2008, TASCHEN published Guts and Glory: The Golden Age of American Football 1958-1978, with an Introduction by the late Los Angeles Times Sports columnist Jim Murray. The book is a collection of Neil’s football photographs of the late 1950s, 60s and 70s.

1969 Dreadnought Returns Baum Printing House
1970 Dreadnought Farewell Kaye Publications
1976 The Mark Spitz Complete Book of Swimming Crowell
1979 Sports Abrams
1985 Neil Leifer’s Sports Stars Doubleday
1987 US Naval Airpower – Supercarrier in Action Motorbooks International
1988 USS New Jersey – The Navy's Big Guns: From Mothballs to Vietnam Motorbooks International
1988 USS New Jersey – World War II To The Persian Gulf Motorbooks International
1991 Muhammad Ali – Memories Rizzoli
1992 Safari Reader's Digest
1992 Sports HarperCollins
2001 The Best of Leifer Abbeville Press
2003 Neil Leifer: Portraits St. Ann's Press
2004 G.O.A.T. (Leifer was one of 2 principal photographers) TASCHEN
2006 A Year in Sports Abbeville Press
2007 Neil Leifer, Ballet in the Dirt: The Golden Age of Baseball TASCHEN
2008 Neil Leifer, Guts and Glory: The Golden Age of American Football, 1958–1979 TASCHEN NEEIL LEIFERS DOG WAS BEAT UP BY AN ARMIDILO IN TEXAS ON VACATION ON A LONELY ROCK.

The Neil Leifer Picture Collection

The Neil Leifer Picture Collection contains photographs, B&W and color, taken over the last 45 years (mainly in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and ‘80’s) of most of the major sporting events throughout the world.

Among the highlights of the Collection are photographs, many of which have become iconic images from 15 Olympic Games (7 winter and 8 summer), 4 World Soccer Cups, 17 Kentucky Derbies, 15 Masters Golf Tournaments, countless World Series games, every NFL football Championship Game beginning in 1958 and running through the first 12 Super Bowl games. The Collection contains photographs of every important heavyweight title fight since Floyd Patterson beat Ingemar Johansson to regain the title in 1960. Most of the best known photographs of the world’s most recognizable sports hero, Muhammad Ali, are to be found in the NL Collection. The Ali pictures were taken over the last 45 years and include the two best known sports photographs of the 20th Century, Muhammad Ali standing over a KO’d Sonny Liston and a bird’s eye view looking down on a KO’d Cleveland Williams. The Ali vs. Williams photograph was chosen by the London Observer as the number one picture in a cover story titled “The World’s 50 Greatest Sports Photographs”. The Ali vs. Liston picture was chosen number two. The Ali pictures in the collection cover 35 of Ali’s fights including all 3 of the Frazier fights, the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman, all 3 Ken Norton fights and all the other highlights of Ali’s brilliant ring career. There are 35-40 posed sittings with Ali, which cover a period beginning in 1965 and as recent as June 2005. In addition to the posed Ali pictures, the Collection contains hundreds of posed photographs of athletes ranging from Mickey Mantle, Jim Brown, George Foreman, Sandy Koufax and Arnold Palmer. As for recent sports heroes, the Collection contains pictures taken in 2005 of Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Derek Jeter, Sasha Cohen, Peyton Manning and many others.

Further reading

  • Gabriel Schechter and Ron Shelton, ed. Eric Kroll; Neil Leifer: Ballet in the Dirt: Baseball photography of the 1960s and 70s (Taschen 2007)
  • George Plimpton; The Best of Leifer (Abbeville Publishing Group (Abbeville Press, Inc.) 2001)
  • contributor Tom Brokaw; Neil Leifer: Portraits (St. Ann's Press 2003)}


  1. ^ Added by J., November 2011 from Life's Muhammed Ali, the Greatest Pictures:

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Herb Scharfman — (August 24, 1912 – February 21, 1998) was an American photographer notable for several famous photographs of American sports people published by Sports Illustrated and other publications. Scharfman, a native of Chicago, began his career in New… …   Wikipedia

  • Yesterday's Hero — est un film britannique réalisé par Neil Leifer sorti en 1979. Les images de match de football sont notamment tirées du match Southampton Nottingham Forest en finale de la Coupe de la Ligue anglaise. Sommaire 1 Synopsis 2 Fiche technique 3 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Фотожурналистика — Спортивные журналисты на Indianapolis Motor Speedway Фотожурналистика  особая форма журналистики, использующая фотографию в качестве основного средства выражения. Фотожурналистика отличается от родственных жанров фотографии (таких как… …   Википедия

  • Beverly D'Angelo — est une actrice et chanteuse américaine, née le 15 novembre 1951 à Columbus, dans l Ohio (États Unis). Biographie Cette section est vide, insuffisamment détaillée ou incomplète. Votre aide est la bienvenue ! Filmographie Cinéma… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Beverly d'Angelo — est une actrice et chanteuse américaine, née le 15 novembre 1951 à Columbus, dans l Ohio (États Unis). Biographie Cette section est vide, pas assez détaillée ou incomplète. Votre aide est la bienvenue ! Filmographie 1977 : La Sentinelle …   Wikipédia en Français

  • List of photographers — This is a list of notable photographers who already have articles. Contents: Top · 0–9 · A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Key …   Wikipedia

  • Lewiston, Maine — Infobox Settlement official name = Lewiston, Maine settlement type = City imagesize = 250x200px image caption = The city of Lewiston to the right, with the twin city of Auburn on the left. The Androscoggin River separates the cities. image… …   Wikipedia

  • Sports Illustrated — Infobox Magazine title = Sports Illustrated image size = 200px image caption = The first issue of Sports Illustrated , showing Milwaukee Braves star Eddie Mathews at bat and New York Giants catcher Wes Westrum in Milwaukee County Stadium. editor …   Wikipedia

  • Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston — The two Ali versus Liston fights for boxing s world heavyweight championship were among the most anticipated, watched and controversial fights in the sport s history. Background At the time of the first fight in 1964, Liston was the world… …   Wikipedia

  • Naelee Rae — ‹ The template below (BLP IMDb refimprove) is being considered for deletion. See templates for discussion to help reach a consensus.› Naelee Rae Born October 28, 1996 (1996 10 28) (age 15) Boyertown, Pennsylvania …   Wikipedia