Front Row takes you behind-the-scenes of the cover shoot for ESPN The Magazine’s “Tall Ball” issue on newsstands Friday featuring Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns (aka KAT). He is profiled by ESPN.com NBA writer Kevin Arnovitz.
– Karen Frank, director of photography, ESPN The Magazine
The 7-foot, 244-pound former Kentucky star – who turned 21 Nov. 15 – joined the shoot for about two hours at a photo studio in Minneapolis on Oct. 5 after a team practice. The result is one of the few covers in the history of The Magazine in which the ESPN emblem is not featured at the very top. Karen Frank, director of photography at ESPN The Magazine, provides details on how the unique concept cover happened.
The cover concept is different than what you typically showcase. Explain how you came to envision this concept/design.
I knew that Karl-Anthony was our cover subject for the “Tall Ball” issue and I thought it would be fun to play with the idea of his height – that he is almost too tall to fit on our cover – or any cover. We had talked a lot about the everyday reality of being so tall – low ceilings, beds that are too short, finding clothing that fits, etc. The first idea was to have Karl crouching or bending or even just tilting his head to fit within our cover. When I spoke to our photographer, Peter Yang, we arrived at the idea of building a forced perspective box to accentuate the idea even further.
I had trolled Karl-Anthony’s Instagram feed to look for clues about his personality and how he’d been photographed. I came across the shot of a kid hanging off the rim of a toy basketball hoop [see below]. It seemed like another element to suggest scale that we could play with within the set we were building.
We had no idea if the forced perspective shot would work and, honestly, it was initially a backup shot. But the second Karl stepped in, wearing that blue suede jacket and those bright red sneakers, we knew we had something great. He was playful and energized, and you can really see that in the image.
Why did you feel something needed to change for this cover? Was it something planned or came to you on the spot?
The power of the image led [creative director] Chin Wang to push the envelope in terms of cover design.
Were there other cover photo choices? And if so, why were those not selected?
The other set up we had is the image that runs inside the magazine of Karl towering over the Minnesota pines pushing the cloud out of his face [see photo gallery above]. We started with this shot, and Karl had fun with it. I had also seen a photo of Karl with a tiger cub on his Instagram feed [see below], and we were hoping to get a Timberwolf pup for the forest set. Unfortunately, the only Timberwolves available for us were adolescent, so we passed on them.