Photographer John Shearer on assignment outside Attica prison during a prisoner riot and uprising. (Photo by Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Photographer John Shearer on assignment outside Attica prison during a prisoner riot and uprising. (Photo by Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

“I fell in love with photography at 11… I was lucky that my father had a very good friend named Gordon Parks, who lived down the street.” With mentoring from Parks, John Shearer (1947-2019) began taking pictures professionally as a teen. The photographic process was one that he took to readily, even instinctively: “Human gesture and expression are the essence of photography. It’s not about lights or fast lenses and fast film. It’s the ability to capture a moment in time. To capture the spirit of someone in that magic box is wonderful. It’s what I fell in love with as a kid.” Shearer was on staff from 1970 to ’72, and one of his plum assignments was the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight. He later translated the experience into a deft metaphor: “When the weekly LIFE stopped … it felt like I had been fighting for the heavyweight championship. I’d practiced, and I’d sparred, and I got ready, and I fought the big fight. And then there was no place to go. I had job offers, but it wasn’t the same. There was nothing like it.”

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

Boxer Muhammad Ali (L) taunting boxer Joe Frazier (R) during training for their fight. (Photo by John Shearer/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Boxer Muhammad Ali (L) taunting boxer Joe Frazier (R) during training for their fight. (Photo by John Shearer/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

State trooper holding burnt cap of a guard taken hostage during riot at Attica State prison. (Photo by John Shearer/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

State trooper holding burnt cap of a guard taken hostage during riot at Attica State prison. (Photo by John Shearer/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

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