Sports Illustrated Lays Off All Staff Photographers

This week's issue of Sports Illustrated magazine
This week's issue of Sports Illustrated magazine

By Donald R. Winslow

© 2015 News Photographer magazine


NEW YORK, NY (January 23, 2015) – The remaining six staff photographers at Sports Illustrated magazine were all laid off yesterday.

Staff photographers Robert Beck, Simon Bruty, Bill Frakes, David E. Klutho, John W. McDonough, and Al Tielemans were informed of the decision around noon Eastern time on Thursday.

Sports Illustrated director of photography Brad Smith confirmed the move this morning to News Photographer magazine.

"It's true," Smith said. "There was a decision made through the company to restructure various departments, including at Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately economic circumstances are such that it has cut the six staff photographers."

According to a source at Time-Life the layoffs will be effective in March, possibly on differing dates for specific photographers due to their individual agreements with the company. But because of this, the laid-off photographers will still be shooting the upcoming Super Bowl together for the magazine.

Smith said the plan going forward is "to re-evaluate what's best for the magazine, not just financially but also content-wise. Our commitment to photography is as strong as ever, and we will continue to create the best original content possible."

As early as last summer there were rumors of pending staff cuts at Sports Illustrated as well as at other Time-Life publications because of the company's plan to move this year into new quarters downtown. The new floorspace is considerably smaller, and it will seat far fewer people. The magazines are moving because they can no longer afford the rent where they are, one of the magazine's contributing photographers was told by an SI editor.

Smith said the six staff photographers "have contributed to the success of the magazine and the Sports Illustrated franchise, and I hope that they may continue to do so under slightly different circumstances." He said that while the six are no longer staff photographers, that does not preclude them for continuing to shoot for the magazine if they so desire.

"In my grandest thoughts I hope they will continue to contribute to the magazine," Smith said. "I can't imagine a world where they don't. We just have to figure out what this new structure is."

Smith said Sports Illustrated isn't planning on changing what they do, just the process. 

"Our commitment to photography hasn't changed," he said. "We're still going to cover games, we're going to shoot portraits, we're going to cover Olympics, we'll be at the Final Four, we will be at championships, we'll be there."

The bad news for Sports Illustrated photographers comes less than 12 hours after many sports shooters were in Manhattan for the premier of the ESPN film "Keepers Of The Streak," a new documentary about four photographers who have shot every Super Bowl since its beginning.