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Legendary Photos: The Stories Behind 7 of Ryszard Horowitz’s Iconic Images

How a master photo-composer crafts his mind-bending images

Lonely Player, 1989

Photo of a football player

I was asked by the art director of Sports Illustrated to illustrate a story about American Football. He was surprised to learn that I have never been to a real football game in my life, yet we decided to give it a try.

I was always amused by the helmets worn by the players that reminded me of bird cages and that simple idea led me to this whimsical analog composite. In this case the bird is free on the outside and the player is caged inside.

At the time, I produced a method of creating special litho masks to expose under my enlarger with specially color corrected light. Each piece of film was exposed one on top of the other just like the way you do it now in Photoshop utilizing the layers. It was 1989 and there was no computer in sight. It took three separate masks and exposures to create the image. The first was my friend in a football helmet with the background blocked out. The second was the reverse exposure for the sky and the third one for the canary perched on the front of the helmet. It was all composed on a single sheet of 8×10 positive film placed on a special easel with two diagonal pins to keep all the layers in registration. Similar in a way to a device that has been used by film animators for years. The film and the masks had two diagonal holes to fit over the pins made with a special film puncher. All this equipment was designed and adapted for me by a wizard I found someplace in Connecticut. It served me well for years before I discovered computers in the late eighties, and I enjoyed creating analog photo composites as long as it was necessary. Computers made it all much easier but much less fun and not nearly as creative.

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