This selection of photos particularly features a selection of Smith’s most renowned shots of Muhammad Ali, images which reveal the complex personality of one of sport’s most controversial and influential characters. The works portray the composure and confidence of the self-proclaimed ‘greatest’ boxer, as well as Ali’s wit, intelligence and theatrical personality in the staged shots.
For over thirty years, Chris Smith has been an influential and pivotal figure in the world of sports photography. His iconic images have developed the art form to give greater narrative to each shot, capturing not only the skill and strength of the athletes but also what drives them to succeed and the psychological characteristics they possess. Beginning work with the Observer in 1970, Smith moved to the Sunday Times in 1976, where he was to work for thirty years, covering virtually all the major sporting events of this period. His shots of Muhammad Ali capture the boxer at the height of his career; pieces such as Wrapping Up, Speedball and Ali Taping Hands show Ali as calm, confident and focused. Other works show his witty nature; Ali with Poster, in which he holds a bounty notice for his ‘illegal whuppin’ of Joe Frazier’, recalls Ali’s trademark tactics of aggravating opponents prior to a fight. Before this fight he famously quipped ‘Frazier is so ugly he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife’. The classic image of Ali with the Beatles was taken in 1964, prior to the fight with Sonny Liston and as the Beatles were beginning their first American tour.
Chris Smith has received numerous awards in acknowledgement of his contributions to photography. He was awarded The Sports Photographer of the Year four times, as well as the Individual Sports Picture of the Year twice. He also won a Special Award in the SSF World Sports Photo Contest in 1995. He covered his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, and since then has documented most major sporting events, including the Football and Rugby World Cups, cricket, sailing, horse racing, and boxing. Smith lives and works in London.