ESPN The Magazine launches its fourth “Body Issue” — an annual celebration of the athletic form — featuring 27 talents from across the world of sports and six special covers showcasing: Rob Gronkowski, Jose Bautista, Tyson Chandler, Daniela Hantuchova, Candace Parker and Ronda Rousey.
The Mag provides Front Row a sneak peek of the Body Issue arriving for subscribers this week and on newsstands Friday.
The Mag’s Deputy Editor Neely Lohmann discusses what makes this fourth edition so special (other than the fact that it’s her first as top editor).
This is your first Body Issue as the top editor. How does this assignment differ from other issues you’ve been responsible for?
Well, I’m pretty sure no other issue involves asking athletes to get naked! But it’s a process that’s taken very seriously by everyone involved. Each athlete has different reasons for wanting to be in the issue — different reservations, different personal feelings about doing it. The whole process — from the initial ask, to all the conversations with them about what they want out of the experience, to finally being with them on the set when they see the images on the monitor and their eyes light up — it’s a very personal journey for the athletes that’s so rewarding to be a part of.
How did you decide on who would be the six cover subjects, and why are there six?
We had an overwhelming number of truly amazing photographs to choose from this year, which is why there are six covers. We wanted to have as many as we could get because whittling the photographs down to the best of the best isn’t easy. When making the final call, we paid attention to diversity — we like to have a good mix of men and women, a good mix of different body types represented, different sports, etc. (NOTE: Distribution of covers is completely random.)
How is a cover shoot different from shoots for a layout?
They really aren’t that different. In fact, we often shoot athletes without having any preconceived notions about whether or not they will end up on the cover. We are always in pursuit of the most compelling, most unique photographs we can get. But when we see an image that blows us away, something that everyone really responds to, we know it’s going to be seriously considered for a cover spot—no matter who the athlete is.
How bold and/or shy are the subjects?
We’ve seen it all. You really never know what to expect. Some athletes who you might expect to be shy are totally unencumbered on set — their robe is no where in sight. Others who don’t have any reservations sometimes end up with a last-minute case of nerves. But in all cases, once the athlete spends time with the photographer and sees the images on the monitor, they get excited about what they see and they start to have a lot of fun with it.
How many images were shot for the issue, and how did you whittle it down to the final number of shots used in the final?
I can’t begin to imagine how many images we shot for this issue — thousands, certainly. And whittling down those images to our favorites is both tremendously fun and incredibly difficult. But the photographers do the first edit; they send us the ones they are most happy with. From that group, I work closely with the photo editors, Karen Frank and Nancy Weisman, creative director, John Korpics, and Editor-in-Chief, Chad Millman, to select the ones we feel best represent the athlete. But even then, we have some tough calls. That’s why we include exclusive extras in our online photo gallery. You can view them and behind-the-scenes video with some of the Body athletes at www.espn.com/bodyissue (LIVE at Noon ET).