Joe Rodriguez: Growing up, my grandmother bought me subscriptions to tons of magazines. I always read magazines. My love of magazines didn’t turn into a full-blown addiction until 2005, my junior year at the School of Visual Arts. That year, I took Sarah A. Friedman’s editorial photography class. Sarah knew I loved ESPN the Magazine and she just happened to create some of my favorite images that they’ve ever run. Sarah also helped me get an internship there. Following my internship, I was hired on and stayed for 6 years. Catriona Ni Aolain, the Director of Photography let me run wild! I was able to learn about how magazines worked, who did what, why and how the end product came about.
To me, ESPN the Magazine is what a magazine should be: Big, shiny, beautiful, and full of information and opinions. It made me feel ready to debate anyone about the topics covered inside. But most importantly it is FULL OF AWESOME PORTRAITS. The Mag’s photography was always ahead of the curve. The portraits were always dynamic or when needed beautifully lit and quiet. I’d never seen a magazine that let photos breathe as much as ESPN did. For the first time, I saw an art department (led by then creative director Siung Tjia) show how design elements could interact with photographs without stifling them or sometimes making up for a lackluster photograph altogether.