Turning Point: 10

By 1984 Dave Black had done some shooting for Sports Illustrated and was completing a four-year contract with USA Gymnastics, but he was, by his own admission, “still an unknown photographer.” That was about to change.


© Dave Black

“I got to Los Angeles four days before the ’84 Olympic games began, and at the gymnastics pavilion saw Glenn Sundby, the founder and publisher of International Gymnast magazine. I knew Glenn, and he’d been hired as venue chief for photographers. Not knowing he’d get that job, two years earlier he’d bought an arena ticket and had a front row center seat for the events. He gave me that ticket in return for use in his magazine of any photographs USA Gymnastics didn’t choose.

“The awarding of the medals would take place right in front of that seat, so as soon as I photographed Mary Lou Retton’s perfect 10 vault and knew she’d be getting the gold for the women’s gymnastic individual all-around, I ran to the seat. The other photographers in the arena were behind Mary Lou, and when the medal was placed around her neck and she thrust the flowers up, I was the only one in position to get that view of that moment. I also had the best lighting: all the television lights were coming from behind me, shining right on her.

“The photo has sold more than any other image I’ve ever made; it still sells today. But there’s nothing more important to a career than a photo credit. It trumps everything else.”

This column is the result of our belief that many accomplished photographers can indicate one photograph of particular significance to their careers. It’s also the result of our desire to hear their stories.