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The best photographs don’t always make the best covers. It takes a smart concept, a meticulously executed image, smoothly integrated typography and the combination of all those factors to create an immediate and lasting impact. Our top ten photographic covers of 2012 show exquisite use of photography.

The most notable is New York Magazine’s magnificent cover by photographer Iwan Baan of a half blacked-out Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. It’s instantly iconic and will become one of the greatest covers of all time. In the mix is also W‘s stunning fashion cover image of Marion Cotillard, ESPN‘s high-concept “Fantasy Football” cover, depicting an NFL player in a magical forest with a unicorn, and a photojournalistic cover, the Economist’s powerful image documenting the personal toll of the conflict in Gaza.

We also decided to include two covers in the mix that were striking photo-based illustrations. An aged Obama on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek as well as a thoughtful commission by the New York Times Magazine for the visual artist Idris Kahn to reinterpret an iconic landmark on their London-themed cover.

A great cover is always a collaborative effort. To caption each of our selected covers, we spoke to a mix of editors, photo directors, art directors and photographers who took part during different stages of the creative process. In our selection, we refrained from choosing any TIME covers, though if we were to choose one, it would be Martin Schoeller’s arresting image of a mother breast-feeding her 4-year-old son, “Are You Mom Enough?”

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

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On Aug. 20, Will Lucas, a lanky righty from Fairfield, Conn., pitched a no-hitter in the Little League World Series. His performance was the opening highlight—the lead—on ESPN’s SportsCenter the next morning. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a bunch of prepubescent ballplayers, a few with voices higher than an Albert Pujols homer. Are we such a sports-obsessed society that we’ll devour the sporting thrills and heartbreak of children just to hold us over until football season?

But try telling the 11-year-olds from impoverished Lugazi, Uganda, who play in bare feet at home, why they shouldn’t be on television. They’ll just keep smiling and having the time of their lives in Williamsport, Pa., host since 1947 to the series—a 10-day tournament featuring eight teams from across the U.S. and eight international teams from places like Mexico, Curaçao, Japan and Panama.

Plus, the kids give better interviews than the pros. After Lucas hurled his no-no, an ESPN reporter asked a typical postgame question: How did it feel to be on the bottom of a celebratory dog pile? “It’s exciting,” Lucas said. “But then at the end, it really hurts.” Sharp, and funny. Can we call him up to the big leagues?

Sean Gregory is a staff writer at TIME.

Wayne Lawrence is a Brooklyn-based photographer. See more of his work here.

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Jason-Lee-Blind-Video-Days-1

This 20-minute film chronicles the influence that the video part has had on the skateboarding industry through current skater and filmmaker interviews along with footage from the most popular and respected videos of all time, ranging from Stacy Peralta’s The Bones Brigade Video Show (1984), to Element’s Rise and Shine (2011). “Skate on Film” combines in-depth interviews with industry greats, such as Andrew Reynolds, Matt Hensley, Heath Kirchart and Nyjah Huston, just to name a few.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8121027

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I am not, as Ina Fried can attest, much of a sports fan. But I love this video from ESPN on a dude who lives his life disappointing those who are and who would dearly like to meet a superstar.

Personally, I want to meet the person with the same name as Lindsay Lohan.

Enjoy:

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