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Brian Blaine Reynolds, Also Known as Hy Peskin, Dies

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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 5, 2005

Brian Blaine Reynolds, 89, who died June 2 of kidney disease at a hospital in Herzliya, Israel, was a man with two names, two countries and, for all practical purposes, two identities.

Under his original name of Hy Peskin, he was one of the finest sports photographers from the 1940s to the 1960s, capturing the greats of baseball, basketball, boxing and golf in some of the most memorable images in sports history.

As Brian Reynolds, his legal name for the last 40 years of his life, he founded an organization now called the Academy of Achievement that brings together the super-accomplished for an annual gala weekend in which they rub shoulders with one another and serve as an inspiration to hundreds of students.

Although Mr. Reynolds had no active role in the academy for the past 20 years, the Washington-based organization now run by his son continues to be one of the world's most dazzling gatherings of international celebrities -- Nobel Prize winners, heads of state, star athletes, titans of industry, scientists and entertainers.

If the dual worlds of Hy Peskin and Brian Reynolds intersected, they did so in his pursuit of people of rare mastery and renown.

As a photographer, he created some of the most remarkable images of 20th-century sport: Joe DiMaggio completing his majestic swing in the 1949 All-Star Game; a through-the-ropes view of boxer Carmen Basilio, his face bloodied and his eye swollen shut, at the moment he lands a right hand to the face of his opponent, Sugar Ray Robinson; the brooding glare of football great Jim Brown; character studies of baseball superstar Ted Williams; and perhaps the most famous golf photograph ever, Ben Hogan's dramatic 1-iron shot on the 18th hole of the 1950 U.S. Open in Merion, Pa.

"He just took the best damn sports pictures ever," said sports photographer Neil Leifer. "He was simply the best."

Mr. Reynolds, a self-described poor kid from Brooklyn, originally wanted to be a sportswriter and began his career during the Depression at the old New York Daily Mirror. He switched to photography when he found out he could make more money.

By the 1940s, he was freelancing for the leading magazines of the era -- Time, Life, Look, the Saturday Evening Post -- often taking pictures from startlingly fresh angles. He said that his pictures of the Brooklyn Dodgers, sometimes shot from the roof of Ebbets Field, made both him and the Dodgers famous.

"He had a way of doing sports action photography that was revolutionary," Leifer said. "Hy was never sitting in the same press box as everyone else. Hy was running around, crouching in an aisle."

Leifer, who was a consultant on Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" movies, said Stallone wanted the fight scenes to look like Hy Peskin's boxing photos of the 1950s, in which two battered men stalk each other through a moody haze of smoke.

Using advances in film speeds and lighting, Mr. Peskin was credited with taking the first sports action photographs in color. His new technique landed him a job with Look magazine and, in 1954, he became one of the first photographers hired by the newly formed Sports Illustrated magazine.


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