Renowned sports photographer Raphael dies at 68

Updated: February 21, 2007, 7:04 PM ET
Associated Press

MARBLEHEAD, Mass. -- Sports photographer Richard Raphael, who covered all 41 Super Bowls and shot nine Sports Illustrated magazine covers, has died after a sudden illness. He was 68.

Raphael died at his home Saturday, funeral officials said.

He got his professional start while still photo editor of the Boston University News in the early 1960s. He persuaded the public relations director with the Boston Celtics to allow him to shoot the team's games on a freelance basis. He eventually became the official team photographer.

One of his most famous photos was a photo of the Celtics' Bill Russell deflecting a shot by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain, the two giants suspended in mid-air, their arms outstretched.

He also shot the New England Patriots from the early days of the AFL when the team was known as the Boston Patriots, as well as the Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox and Boston-area college football teams.

"You can't exaggerate his status as a world-class photographer," said Bob Ryan, a Boston Globe sports columnist who collaborated with Raphael on a book about the Celtics.

Raphael was hardly confined to high-profile professional sports.

He told The Boston Globe in a 1997 interview that he had shot "every sport you can think of, including lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, crew, soccer, pingpong, squash, indoor and outdoor track and cross country, sailing, golf and others."

Even though his work schedule had been scaled back in recent years, he still shot the Super Bowl in Miami earlier this month between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, making him one of just five photographers to shoot all 41 championship games.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield opened an exhibit of Raphael's work in 2001, calling him the "the dean of Boston sports photographers and one of the premier photographers in the United States."

He is survived by his longtime companion Meralee Whitman of Marblehead; a brother, Michael Raphael of Windsor, Conn.; and two nieces.

A funeral service was scheduled for Wednesday at the Stanetsky-Hymanson Memorial Chapels in Salem.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press