The Photo That Required 15 Years To Take

An entire career can come down to one photo.

Veteran photographer Rob Cianflone’s favourite picture from the World Cup in Russia took 15 years to capture. It was a quieter moment, after the final whistle against Peru, when the Socceroos had been eliminated.

“Tim Cahill walked over on his own to the goal mouth and touched the post, which he’s never done before, so I sort of took that as a farewell to the game for him. And he just so happened to announce his [international] retirement… so it’s sort of a fitting picture.”

Cianflone, a 20-year veteran at Getty Images, has snapped World Cups, Olympics, Formula 1, Moto GP, IPL Cricket, rock concerts, basketball tournaments, swimming championships.

Tim Cahill  touches the goal after the final whistle during during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia match between Australia and Peru on June 26, 2018 . (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Only the Tour de France remains on his sporting bucket list. It’s a dream job he clearly doesn’t take for granted.

“[You] always pinch yourself, if someone’s paying for you to cover a sporting event.”

The instinct to follow Cahill for something seemingly so innocuous, could only be attained from a trained eye that had followed his whole 15-year Socceroos career.

“Tim’s great, I’ve photographed him for years, even before that first World Cup, when he first made the Socceroos squad [2004].”

Cianflone had only returned from Russia days before our interview, fatigued, shaking off jet lag and disappointed that it was all over.

"When you’re at a World Cup, you’re always on a high. As soon as it’s over you just come straight back down, and you actually miss that excitement of the atmosphere and the matches that are on every day."

His excitement quickly returned, with a gleam in his eye and a proud smile, as we flicked through his portfolio from the Socceroo’s last four World Cup campaigns. Notably a famous shot of John Aloisi that metaphorically kick started it all.

John Aloisi lines up to strike the winning penalty in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Australia and Uruguay on November 16, 2005. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“Even now I still get chills. And that night I was actually very ill. I’d been sick after I got off the plane from Uruguay [where the Socceroos had played 4 days before], and I was really uncomfortable the whole night; but to capture that moment, I was so happy to get him striking the ball. The elation that night from the fans and the noise, just everything that happened that night was incredible.”

Cianflone was there again when Australia qualified for the South Africa 2010 World Cup.

Tim Cahill spraying non-alcoholic champagne in the changing rooms after Australia  qualified for the FIFA 2010 World Cup on June 6, 2009. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“That was a lucky one. It’s actually non-alcoholic champagne, you can’t drink there, so someone had bought in a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne in case we qualified. And then we hopped straight to the airport with the team on a flight home.”

(Cianflone smirked, but maintained a professional omertà when asked whether the beverages on the plane were alcoholic).

“It’s always luck in sport," said Cianflone as he humbly deflected my question about the mix of luck vs skill in capturing the perfect action shot.

But it’s clear that instincts are mastered after so many campaigns, which led to one of the iconic photos from the 2018 World Cup Final.

France players celebrate with Didier Deschamps, Manager of France following their victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“Straight after that match, there was so much going on, there were players all over the place celebrating, so you’re trying to capture everything. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw [Didier] Deschamps being thrown up and… you very rarely see a coach being thrown up... it’s the first time I’ve seen it, so I was really happy to capture that one.”

Referring to another quiet moment he’d captured -- of Tim Cahill with the youngest member of the Socceroos, 19-year-old Daniel Arzani -- ten daily asked Cianflone how aware he is of the figurative significance of the shot when he sees it in the frame.

Daniel Arzani and Tim Cahill of Australia embrace after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia match between Denmark and Australia on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“You’re always trying to find something special in the games, and that was straight after the match. Tim’s walked up to Arzani and given him a pat on the back, and sort of like the master handing down his role to the apprentice. Here you go mate, it’s your time to shine.”

Snapshots from Rob Cianflone
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