Over the years we've taken the "Illustrated" part of our name very seriously. We print a lot of pictures and we shoot a lot of pictures, a whole lot. In fact, in our 28 years we've accumulated a picture collection containing no fewer than 6½ million photographs.
Who uses the collection? Well, we do, of course, when an old shot fits a new story. But the collection is drawn upon by other Time Inc. and other U.S. and foreign publications; by book publishers; by makers of posters; by formulators of special projects. The largest of these in recent memory was the Smithsonian Institution's "Champions of American Sport" exhibit last year in Washington's National Portrait Gallery, in which one-third of the 150 photographs came from the pages of SI.
High on SI's most-requested list of pictures are a shot of Jack Nicklaus brandishing his putter in victory at the 1980 U.S. Open, and the cover pictures of John Stallworth making his spectacular over-the-shoulder, game-winning catch for Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV and of the triumphant U.S. hockey team whooping it up at the Lake Placid Olympics.
Head of the collection Michele Benis and Photo Researcher Robert Taylor are assisted by Cataloger Penny Keefe. Benis came to us this year after eight years with the Time Inc. picture collection to help us coordinate those photographs with ours. She has an Instamatic shot of a mist-shrouded Mount Fuji that she's proud of, but her artistic inclinations tend to be literary, not graphic. Her novel We'll See is awaiting a publisher.
When Taylor started in 1972 in what was then called the picture library, it occupied a single room—now it takes up four on two floors of the building—and he was the only person working there. In 1966, when he was 18 and intending to become a historian of black America, a friend gave him a 35 mm Voigtlander Bessamatic. "I looked through the viewfinder and it changed my life," he says. Taylor began snapping pictures incessantly and in 1969 became a photo clerk at Time Inc. He has taken pictures for Runner's World and the New York Amsterdam News and has shot dozens of subjects for this, our Letter from the Publisher. Some of his best work has been for the New York Council on Adoptable Children—portraits of kids available for adoption for viewing by prospective parents.
Keefe, a B.A. in art history from Sarah Lawrence, was hired in 1978 to, among other things, cross-reference every picture that goes into SI. One that did not go into SI but for which we receive many requests is of Goalie Jim Craig, American flag draped over his shoulder, searching the stands for his father after the U.S. hockey team won the '80 gold medal. "We all saw it on TV," says Taylor, "but it never ran in SI. It's an example of the 'phantom' picture, the one that people think they saw."
Another phantom is the color shot of Jackie Robinson dancing off third that ran in SI's 25th anniversary issue. "People started asking for it right away," says Taylor, "and I had to tell them that it doesn't exist." It's actually the black-and-white shot shown behind Taylor and Benis that an artist colored on the printing plate, thus creating a picture that wasn't.
TAYLOR AND BENIS: MANY PHOTOS, A FEW PHANTOMS