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The Best of Leifer

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Forget all that flashy camera gear: a photo-journalist’s best weapon is luck, plain and simple. And Neil Leifer must have rabbits’ feet spilling out of his pockets. Just one glance at the cover of The Best of Leifer proves it: In the former SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and TIME shutterbug’s famous 1965 shot of Muhammad Ali standing over his knocked-out opponent Sonny Liston, taunting him like a surly Greek god, there’s a hard-boiled posse of ringside photographers in the background. Poor saps, all they got was Ali’s back—Leifer got the shot. See? Luck. Elsewhere, he captures two pairs of hulking football players shaking hands at the 50-yard line before the kickoff of Super Bowl I in 1967; somehow it feels as momentous and alien as a moon landing. But for my money, the collection’s real keeper is Leifer’s 1961 photo of JFK and LBJ sitting in the stands of Griffith Stadium—both in fedoras, their eyes following a foul ball headed their way. This is more than photography: It’s iconography. A

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