John G. Zimmerman, a photographer who broke ground in sports photojournalism with innovative techniques as a staff member of a then-fledgling publication called Sports Illustrated, has died. He was 74.
Zimmerman died Aug. 3 of complications from lymphoma in Pebble Beach, Calif., where he had lived since the early 1990s.
Considered a wizard with specialty cameras, camera angles, strobe lighting and shutter design, Zimmerman was among the first to successfully put a remote-controlled camera inside a hockey net to show the fierce action around the goal; behind a basketball net to show the intensity of Wilt Chamberlain; and underwater to catch the power and grace of great divers and swimmers. And while these techniques may seem familiar today in the world of television minicams and constant sports coverage, they were new and exciting when Zimmerman perfected them more than 40 years ago.
But Zimmerman was more than just a technical genius. He was an excellent sports action and portrait photographer. Over the years, he shot 107 covers for the magazine, including action shots, portraits of star athletes and several swimsuit issues working with models Christie Brinkley, Elle MacPherson and Carol Alt.
"He basically was the godfather of sports photography at Sports Illustrated," said Steve Fine, the director of photography at the magazine. "He took shots from angles that had never been seen and pioneered techniques that had never been used - including slow shutter speeds, blurs - and produced interesting studies of motion."
Zimmerman, who was born in Los Angeles, was the son of a gaffer at MGM who began teaching his son photography at an early age.
Zimmerman's survivors include his wife, Delores; three children, Darryl, Greg and Linda; a sister, Molly Bishop, and a brother, Ed Zimmerman.
- Los Angeles Times