Neil Leifer


Neil Leifer is an American photographer, author and filmmaker and has been a Sony Artisan since 2014. His photography career began on his 16th birthday, when he captured the game-winning touchdown in the 1957 NFL title game, also known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Over his 60-plus-year career, Neil has captured over 15 Olympic Games, 4 FIFA World Cup soccer tournaments, 17 Kentucky Derbies, 15 Masters golf tournaments, countless World Series games, 13 Super Bowls, and every important heavyweight boxing title fight since 1960.

Neil has more than 200 Sports Illustrated, Time, and People covers to his credit. The September 1982 black and white photo essay and cover on Prisons in America, along with the Olympic Preview essay and cover in July 1984, are the two largest photo essays ever published in Time. In February 1987, an essay on the Animals of Africa ran ten pages without text – a first in Time Magazine. The August 2004 issue of Sports Illustrated titled “The PICTURES – 50 Years of SI Photography” featured an eight-page essay of B&W contact sheets and the cover. In November 2005, Sports Illustrated featured a 13- page essay “Eyewitness” of photographs from his “2005 Senior Citizen Tour” shoot.

Muhammad Ali reacts after his first round knockout of Sonny Liston during the 1965 World Heavyweight Title fight at St. Dominic’s Arena in Lewiston, Maine. May 25,1965.
Additionally, Leifer has photographed many of history’s most notable figures and events including The Royal Wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, President Ronald and Nancy Reagan on Inauguration Day in 1981, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Fidel Castro. He has had 170 pictures published on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the most coveted space in sports media.
Perhaps most well known for having documented his favorite subject, Muhammad Ali, Leifer captured photos of the up-and-coming boxer named Cassius Clay through his rise to superstardom when he earned his title of the “Greatest of All Time.” In 2014, Leifer became the only photographer to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.​
Aerial of Muhammad Ali victorious after his round two knockdown of Cleveland Williams during the 1966 World Heavyweight Title fight at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas November 14, 1966.

Leifer has done special photography on many feature films, including The Longest Yard, Staying Alive, F.I.S.T., Semi-Tough, One From The Heart, Rocky II, Rocky III, Chariots of Fire, The Hunt For Red October, White Men Can’t Jump, Rising Sun, Quiz Show. He also played a psychoanalyst in a cameo (speaking) role in Quiz Show.

Neil has published sixteen books – his best-selling 1978 Abrams coffee table book, Sports, a collection of sports photographs. In 1985, Doubleday published Neil Leifer’s Sports Stars. 1992 saw the publication of three new coffee table books: Muhammad Ali – Memories, published by Rizzoli; Safari, a collection of African animal pictures published by Reader’s Digest; and a new collection of sports pictures, Sports, published by Collins. In September 2001, The Best of Leifer was published by Abbeville Press. The book is a retrospective of Neil’s 40 years as a photojournalist and showcases the best of his sports and non-sports photographs.

Neil’s eleventh book, Neil Leifer: Portraits with an Introduction by Tom Brokaw, was published by St. Ann’s Press in November 2003. One of only two principal photographers in the TASCHEN $3,000, 75 pound/800-page book on Muhammad Ali’s life entitled GOAT. In September 2006, Abbeville Press published A Year in Sports, a 348-page coffee table book with an Introduction by Frank Deford. In November 2007, TASCHEN published Neil Leifer, Ballet in the Dirt: The Golden Age of Baseball, with an Introduction by Ron Shelton. The book is a collection of Neil’s baseball photographs of the 1960s and ’70s, the “Golden Age of Baseball”. In November 2008, TASCHEN published Guts and Glory: The Golden Age of American Football 1958-1978, with an Introduction by the late Los Angeles Times Sports columnist Jim Murray. The book is a collection of Neil’s football photographs of the late 1950s, 60s and 70s.


1969 Dreadnought Returns Baum, Printing House
1970 Dreadnought Farewell, Kaye
1976 The Mark Spitz Complete Book of Swimming Crowell
1979 Sports Abrams
1985 Neil Leifer’s Sports Stars, Doubleday
1987 US Naval Airpower – Supercarrier in Action, Motorbooks
1988 USS New Jersey – The Navy’s Big Guns: From Mothballs to Vietnam, Motorbooks
1988 USS New Jersey – World War II To The Persian Gulf, Motorbooks
1991 Muhammad Ali – Memories, Rizzoli
1992 Safari, Reader’s Digest
1992 Sports, HarperCollins
2001 The Best of Leifer, Abbeville
2003 Neil Leifer: Portraits (with an introduction by Tom Brokaw), St. Ann’s
2004 G.O.A.T. (Leifer was one of 2 principal photographers), Taschen
2006 A Year in Sports (with an introduction by Frank Deford), Abbeville
2007 Neil Leifer, Ballet in the Dirt: The Golden Age of Baseball (with an introduction by Ron Shelton), Taschen *2008 Neil Leifer, Guts and Glory: The Golden Age of American Football, 1958–1979 (with an introduction by Jim Murray), Taschen
2016 Relentless: The Stories behind the Photographs, University of Texas Press
2020 Neil Leifer. Boxing. 60 Years of Fights and Fighters (with an introduction by Gay Talese)

Films Directed:

Playing with Matches (Short)
2015 ESPN Films (TV Series documentary) (1 episode) – Keepers of the Streak (2015)
2009 Dark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers (Documentary short)
2008 Portraits of a Lady (TV Movie documentary)
2008 What About Sal? (TV Short)
2006 God’s Gift (Short)
2005 You Write Better Than You Play: The Best of Frank DeFord (TV Movie documentary)
1999 Scout’s Honor (Short)
1988 Trading Hearts
1979 Yesterday’s Hero