Sports and ski photographer

Passing Date: 
Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sports and ski photographer Lew Portnoy died of complications from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis—a progressive lung disease— on July 17, 2016. He was 75.

A St. Louis native, Portnoy attended Washington University and then learned the commodities business at the Chicago Board of Trade. At 27, he left his trading job and returned to St. Louis, where he started shooting hockey games for the St. Louis Blues, then a new NHL expansion team. Using a Nikon F-1 camera, Kodachrome film and strobe lights, he quickly developed a reputation for capturing innovative images of athletes in action.

From 1968 to 1987, Portnoy shot roughly 250 sporting events each year, including the World Pro skiing tour (1973 through 1982) and a number of World Cup races, often in Aspen. His resumé reads like a sports fan’s bucket list: He shot the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the Stanley Cup finals (six times), the World Series (five times), the U.S. Open tennis tournament (five times), the Super Bowl (six times), the PGA golf tour, the NBA, the NCAA basketball championships, NASCAR, the Belmont and Preakness horse races, and the Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks heavyweight title fight in 1978.

Last year, Portnoy’s partner of 43 years, Lois Constantz, donated his ski-related photography to ISHA. We will be working with the nonprofit Bob Beattie Ski Foundation (the newly adopted name for the World Pro Skiing Foundation) to catalog these slides for researchers and a future article in Skiing History. —Kathleen James

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