The celebrated sports photographer Chris Smith was a Fleet Street photojournalist by trade, and a true artist of the medium by nature. He received rightful accolades for his work throughout his 30-year career with the Observer and The Sunday Times, winning British Sports Photographer of the Year on four occasions.
Smith also won the individual Sports Picture of the Year Prize twice during his career. He became known for capturing not just the physical strength and skill of his subjects, but also for offering a glimpse into their psychological state too. His photographs of the boxer Muhammad Ali are among the most admired in his portfolio.
When Smith was just 27 years old in 1964, he captured perhaps his most famous image of Ali with The Beatles in New York, just before the band were about to embark on their first US tour. With five larger than life and world-famous personalities in the same room, Smith made the most of the golden photo opportunity.
The result, ‘Muhammad Ali Versus The Beatles’ brims with the wit and humour of all the subjects. According to Smith, the meeting was entirely serendipitous, as he happened to be in Miami to view the boxer training for a fight with Sonny Liston. The Beatles also happened to be in town to play a gig, and decided to drop in at the gym. The rest is history.
The early crossover of sport and popular culture captured the imagination of a world hungry for change. Ali stands with a powerful arm outstretched in a mock punch, as the four Beatles line up and pretend to be knocked out. It was taken in an era when to be called an icon truly meant something, and this photograph is deservedly celebrated.
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