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Al Bello ’89, Chief Sports Photographer, Getty Images

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SB Alumnus'
SB Alumnus’ “Olympic Moment” Al Bello ’89 photographs 8x Gold Medalist Michael Phelps in Beijing

“He was pound for pound the strongest guy on the team,” remembers former SB football coach Sam Kornhauser. Nowadays, Al Bello is pound for pound one of the hardest working (and most talented, see sports photographers in the world.

Al works for Getty Images, the world’s photo industry leader for creative and editorial imagery and film, where he rose from a junior photographer to Chief Sports Photographer managing a group of 27 photographers. It’s a career that’s taken him to seven Olympics and untold number of marquee professional sporting events around the world. He photographed the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Beijing where he had the opportunity to follow Michael Phelps’s journey to eight gold medals and then photograph him one-on-one with his medals.

Coach Kornhauser recruited Al to play for SB out of high school and Al has a lot of great memories of his teammates. A favorite memory was when the team – clear underdogs in the contest – held top-ranked Fordham University from scoring and beat them by 3 points.

“I’ll never forget that feeling of complete joy. I threw myself on the ground, I could barely control myself I was so happy.You don’t get that feeling every day, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.”

After graduating from Stony Brook with a BA in Liberal Arts and just one photography class under his belt, Al once again defied the odds. He decided to pursue a career in sports photography, despite the fact that he didn’t have a photography degree from a well-known program.

Fast forward and Al is now working at the top of his field and is eager to share what he knows and a leg up to aspiring photographers at Stony Brook. Al cautions young photographers that they’ll have to invest a lot of time and money for little reward – at first. “The early part of your career is what makes or breaks you, ” he said.

The work can be physically grueling and you have to be willing to pick up and go to wherever in the world you’re needed, leaving family and friends behind. “But the actual job part,” says Al, “I’m not going to lie. I’ve been all over the world. Seen some really cool stuff. And I’ve had incredible life experiences and memories.”

Al’s life experiences at Stony Brook, he said, are what helped him to surpass other sports photographers with perhaps a more impressive pedigree. “People who came out of Syracuse’s or Western Kentucky’s photography programs – I am right up there with them and I’m proud of that.”

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