Walter Iooss (suspend disbelief and pronounce that Yoce), the handsome devil depicted below, has been a photographer for SI since he was 16. He is now 23 going on 24, which makes him the oldest teeny bopper on the staff, an accolade given him by two young ladies who also work for us. This pleases Walter. He is very serious about photography (he did this week's Clemente cover), but he sees no reason to come on like a premature grandpa.
Although probably our most expert dancer of the shing-a-ling and the Ali shuffle, Iooss is becomingly modest. "Anyone can do it," he says, blushing. "Actually you could say my specialty is the funky Broadway. I'm also notorious for my Philly freeze, although that's sort of passé."
During these exertions Iooss hangs a towel from his hip pocket to mop his brow—a trick he learned in places like New York's Apollo and Cheetah—and wears a pair of orange soul-brother shades. Considering that he also brings his own lights to parties (red bulbs to replace the normal white ones), the scene is out of sight.
Iooss now drives to these infra-dig shindigs in a black Jaguar XKE—the neighbors think he's a bookie—because his pale-gold one got "totaled" (he says) just sitting parked in front of his home in Orange, N.J. His father is a bass violist (which may explain something) who put Walter onto photography at the age of 15. "My father had this camera with a huge telescopic lens that he used to use in the stands at Giant games," Iooss says. "People used to scream at him to sit down and stop blocking the view. I just tried to hide—you know how kids are. Then he got me to look through the lens once, and I was hooked. It looked cool.
"I shot pictures off and on for a year. Then I took a day off from high school and came in to see George Bloodgood at SI. I still wore braces on my teeth—I'm sure I made a great impression. He said he liked my football stuff and told me to keep in touch. Finally, after I graduated from high school—time does go by—I got my big chance, an assignment to photograph Roger Maris' 61st home run. I was sitting in the right-field bleachers, my eye screwed to a lens, when everybody started yelling, 'He hit it! He hit it!' 'Where, where?' I said. I couldn't see the ball."
Iooss' luck and expertise improved vastly thereafter. Whether a local photography school he attended helped is debatable. "It was an advanced course," Iooss says. "There I was, 16, posing nudes. Everything I said, the class went berserk."
Walter says that "something just clicks, and suddenly you get in the lineup to stay—like Gehrig." He has been in our lineup seven years now, years of handstands on skateboards, office touch-football-game heroics, beaver patrolling with the Phillies and, always, good photography. "Walter will focus on a man or object," says Picture Editor John Stebbins, "and it'll be as sharp as it's humanly possible to make it. He must have great eyes." He does. And maybe those orange-tinted sunglasses and dim red lights help.
SWINGING WALTER IOOSS