You’ve seen Muhammad Ali ripping off punches in the ring. You’ve also seen him standing over legends such as Joe Frazier and Sonny Liston. That’s the way so many of us remember “The Greatest,” but photographer Thomas Hoepker was able to see a different side of the man when in 1966 Stern magazine had him record Ali as he visited London to fight the stupendously well-named British heavyweight champion Brian London (who lost to Ali in Round 3, of course).
From Tuesday, October 1 – the anniversary of the Thrilla in Manila – until October 20, Milk Gallery will host a rare glimpse of the boxing champ through Ali: Photographs By Thomas Hoepker, an exhibition of intimate photos and quotes collected by Hoepker. And on October 3, Hoepker himself will be on hand to share stories of his time with Ali as well as tales of a photography career that has spanned more than half a century and included the top spot at Magnum Photos.
Hoepker travelled to see Ali a few more times over the years, in Chicago soon after the London fight and then 27 years later in 1997. His collection of photos present a softer view of the man we know so well for his intelligent ferocity within the ring. There’s the young Ali at a restaurant resting comfortably on his manager’s shoulder like a boy snuggling into his father’s side. Another photo shows Ali flinching from a bee while visiting the set of The Dirty Dozen. And then there are the photos where a grinning Ali flirts with a baker’s daughter who would later become his third wife. There are plenty of boxing images too, and in Ali’s sweaty face you can see the will that would push him to the sport’s greatest heights.
Ali: Photos By Thomas Hoepker runs October 1 through October 20 in Milk Gallery. RSVP for the opening night reception here, but fair warning: space is very limited.
Photo Story: Thomas Hoepker, 'Ali Jumping in Chicago'
A Few Words with Thomas Hoepker