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Matinee: 'Howard Bingham On Muhammad Ali' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

4 June 2016

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 138th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Howard Bingham on Muhammad Ali.

Just over five minutes, this video produced by IWC to promote photographer Howard Bingham's 192-page Muhammad Ali: A Thirty-Year Journey is really about the relationship between best friends.

They met in 1962 at a news conference but Bingham had no idea who the young Cassius Clay was. Later that afternoon, Bingham was driving down Broadway when he recognized Clay and his brother standing on the corner. He offered them a ride.

A life-long ride and friendship began, as the narrator says.

"Ali is a photographer's dream," Bingham says. "When he sees a camera, he's always happier."

But, Bingham confesses, he couldn't cover Ali's fights. "When Ali got hit, I got hit," he says. He had to put the camera down.

One of the stories Bingham tells in this clip is about a publicity shot taken at the Bank of America on a Sunday. Ali struck a pose, sitting on a pile of bills in the vault. A million dollars. "Can you believe that?" Bingham says.

He wasn't there on assignment. He was there as a friend.

His friendship gave him unusual access and not just to Ali. Here's the 2010 Lucie Awards tribute to Bingham featuring singer/songwriter Bill Withers that describes the kind of access Bingham enjoys:

He has a charisma "nobody can explain," Withers says. "Bingham is just there."

Bingham and Ali were forever playing pranks. You can read about a few of them in Frank Deford's beautiful 2015 profile for Sports Illustated titled You don't know Muhammad Ali until you know his best friend.

Deford estimates Bingham has taken nearly a half million shots of Ali, who passed away last night at 74. That's a lot, you might think.

Not really. When you're best friends.

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