Carles Carabi Pictures Greatness for ESPN
When looking at Carles Carabi’s portraits of Germany’s goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, on the cover of ESPN Magazine the first thing you may notice is the intensity. It takes a certain kind of person to be a goalkeeper. They’re the last line of defense for any team, and use their bodies as blockades to stop the other team from getting a win. They throw themselves at balls sailing through the air at incredible speeds, set in motion by some of the greatest athletes in the world, and take the blame for any failure. Some say you have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper.
One thing is for sure, though, Neuer is intense. And that’s why Carles photographed him the way he did, because that was the guy who showed up in his studio, that’s the energy that he brought with him. “ESPN wanted a very intense portrait and then also because he’s German he’s a serious guy,” says Carles. “He came to me with a really serious attitude, really serious, really straight forward looking at me in the eye.” Carles’ job as a photographer is to witness life and offer what he sees to the rest of us. He becomes our proxy, showing us moments that would otherwise be hidden from us.
Carles’ portraits are super honest. A part of that success is that Carles was able to get authentic moments from Neuer during their short, 17-minute shoot. But another part of it was that Carles keeps a light hand when it comes to retouching. We get to see the texture of Neuer’s skin, and the elements of his visage that may be called “imperfections” to some, but are a part of the reality of this man. We’re really looking at his face and that’s important to Carles. “I’m not a big fan of very retouched images, I like to keep it as realistic as possible,” Carles says. “I like to keep scars and hair and all those kinds of things because that’s how the person looks so that’s the way the photograph should look. Otherwise they’ll look like a plastic person… It makes it more believable, more real for the people who are reading it.” It’s important for us to remember that our stars are real people. At a time when we deify the famous, reminding us that they’re human lifts us all up and helps us relate to them. When we remember that we can all achieve greatness it opens up a world of possibilities. Sometimes the portal that ushers us into that world is a single photograph.