How did these one-of-a-kind, hand made black & white photographs of Muhammad Ali get on this wall at the Colony Theater for the drama, One Night In Miami? Let me tell you a story, the sheer coincidence and luck is pure kismet. Maybe, it was The Champ using divine intervention?
First of all, these are not my photographs, although I treat them as they are my own. These photographs were made by Larry Spitzer and Jebb Harris, photojournalists for the Muhammad Ali’s hometown newspaper, the Louisville Courier Journal.
I am a classically trained photojournalist. Nowadays, I'm a publisher and provocateur as well. Somehow, this story goes all the way back to September '89. It was my first day of college at Western Kentucky University and I was in the journalism school. I was waiting to see the dean with a few other students. We were sitting in the hallway chatting. Enter one Warren Winter. Warren, originally from Iowa and me from Miami via NYC. We both wanted to be globe trotting photojournalists shooting the cover of Time magazine. Warren’s father was a regular contributing photographer to Time and Newsweek, by the time we met as freshman in college. I had already interned at The Miami Herald, I even shot the Super Bowl in ’89.
Well, Warren and I are still friends to this day. We are each others confidant and sometimes foil. Nowadays, Warren and I have moved onto publishing, creating our own fate. Earlier this year, Warren, during one of our frequent chats was telling me about a project on Muhammad Ali he was thinking about publishing in partnership with the Courier Journal. The CJ, as we knew them from college, was one of the absolute best picture newspapers, in all honesty, in American history. Their accolades include many Pulitzers Prizes. Warren mentioned to me that he was working with an amazing trove of historic photographs, many of which have never been published previously, of Muhammad Ali in Miami. Then it hit my like a right cross. I said that was “Awesome!”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were all these photographs of Ali at Wolfie’s, a place I spent many hours of my childhood with my grandparents and family. I grew up on stories about Meyer Lansky sitting in front with his dog. Collins Avenue was much different in those days. Of course there was the 5th Street Gym, maybe the most famous boxing gym ever? There was even a picture of Ali crossing Washington Avenue. To view these photos is to step back in time to an era when Miami Beach was sleepier compared to today’s crowds seeking the nostalgia of yesteryear. These images and Ali’s presence are why Miami Beach is such a cool place. Ali defined the era and put the 5th Street Gym on the map.
“Warren, you have to send me those negatives.” “I have an idea, I want to make a set of prints from those negatives.” I told him my idea and that we should collaborate. The idea was simple, go into the darkroom and hand make a special, one of kind portfolio. I want to share these never before seen images with Miami. This is the first time these photographs are being exhibited in Miami. When the negatives finally arrived late this summer, the collaboration was on! It was like opening an old shoe box of photographs, you weren’t sure what was in there but you just knew there was something great hiding for you to discover. The type written envelopes said, "Cassius Clay, training in Miami Beach for Joe Frazier title fight" on it. They were worn from 47 plus years of not quite optimal archival storage. The envelopes brought back a ton of memories from my early days in the photo department. They looked the same at every paper, Subject, Date, Photographer. It was a classic newspaper filing system.
This has been a very satisfying collaboration and one that now that I’ve partnered with the Colony Theater is about to blossom again! I can’t wait to hear all the stories about Miami Beach and Ali. Thank you to everyone involved, Warren @ PSG, Pat McDonogh @ Courier Journal, Olga & Michel @ Miami New Drama.
For more information on this special one a kind portfolio.
Please contact: Andrew@AndrewKaufman.net
p.s. All of these images are from a great new book about Ali!
p.p.s. Get your tickets to see the new drama about Ali!