Just months after the death of the GOAT Muhammad Ali, the world now mourns the loss of Ali’s personal friend and official photographer Howard Bingham who passed away on December 16th at the age of 77. Ali and Bingham’s formidable friendship endured over five decades during which the photographer captured the heavyweight champ’s most famous bouts as well as his everyday moments.
The story goes that the two met while Bingham was on assignment as a newspaper photographer in 1962 and they became fast friends after sharing a cab ride together. It’s estimated that Bingham took around 1 million pictures of Ali. In 1997 Bingham published a photo book of his Ali work in Japanese.
From a 2014 article in the Guardian: The photographer Gordon Parks once said that Bingham had observed Ali “with the sensitivity of a blind man”. “Sometimes it’s hard to see where Ali stops and Howard begins,” wrote Frank Depford in Sports Illustrated in 1998.
Although many did not consider Bingham’s aesthetic to be as sophisticated as others who’ve snapped Ali, it’s fair to say that Bingham contributed greatly to the sports photography genre simply with his intimate access to and sheer volume of images of one of the greatest boxers of all time. Bingham’s talent and the unique subject/photographer relationship between him and Ali will never be matched.
For more on Bingham and Ali’s bond, watch this video interview with Bingham in which he refers to Ali as “my best friend.” And if you haven’t seen it, check out Jeffrey Wright’s impeccable performance as Bingham in Michael Mann’s 2001 biopic, Ali.
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) December 16, 2016
A Selection of Howard Bingham’s Photographs of Muhammad Ali
See more of Bingham’s images of Ali plus soundbites from the photographer himself in this PDN Legends gallery.