"Why not put the sofa on the front lawn?"

Brian Gould was, and is, one of the best photographers on the planet (bgould@mts.net) and I always listened to him no matter how wacky his ideas sounded.

We were working for a very upscale furniture client and we wanted
something different and arresting for a full page color ad in a
national magazine. Okay, everybody wants different and arresting, for
everything from tires to treadmills, but this was a case where
different and arresting meant a little extra. It was the client's first
foray into magazine advertising. Up to this point he had done the
usual, "C'mon down. We got the price, we got the quality", radio ads
like all the other furniture makers and retailers in town.

when Brian said, "Why not put the sofa on the front lawn?" I tried not
to look at him as if he had just arrived from the planet Nonsensicus
and I listened."

The idea was to have the client's most
beautiful sofa on the front lawn of a mansion in one of the classiest
areas of the city. On the sofa would be sitting a beautiful woman in a
long black evening gown (the sofa was off-white) with a martini glass
in her hand. Walking towards her and the sofa would be a handsome man
in a white dinner jacket, also holding a martini glass. It was fairly
obvious where the evening was going and that it would not end on the
front lawn.

We got permission from the owners of the house and
engaged two very attractive models for the shoot. We were young and
enthusiastic and didn't bother thinking about minor details like the
weather. If it rained, what would that do to a $4000 sofa? If it was
dark and gloomy, would the shoot look like "Amityville Horror" in
formal wear? Who cared? We were ad-guys and this was ART.

day of the shoot dawned bright and clear. We had scheduled it for the
warmest part of the day (about 4 pm, because in Winnipeg the common
expression is, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute." After
all, it would be tough to disguise the fact that the models were
trembling from the cold and there was no way the shoot would work if
they were both wearing parkas and mukluks.

In any kind of
visual advertising, whether it be video, film or still photography,
what goes on behind the scenes is far more interesting than what you
see on camera.

The people who owned the house were gracious
enough to let us use their home for changing rooms, so the models
didn't have to get dressed on the lawn or in the photographer's van,
although that would have made the shoot far more interesting to the

We all had our jobs. Brian would take the shot and
direct the models. Our art director would keep the local kids from
running into the shot. The client would make sure the furniture was set
up properly and I, as agency principal and client contact
representative, would stand on a rickety chair and hold a small tree
branch above the camera so the leaves hung just in the top edge of the

The sun was just starting to set and cast a beautiful
rosy glow on the huge windows of the mansion. The female model took her
place on the couch. She looked gorgeous. I wielded my tree branch with
genuine artistry. The male model walked into the shot and took his
position. The wind freshened just a little.

"Take it," I said. "Pull the trigger. It's perfect."

"I can't," Brian said urgently. We have to put something in his pants."

"The hell with that," I exploded, my right arm beginning to cramp from
holding the branch. "What he has in his pants is his own business. Take
the damn shot."

Brian looked at me pityingly. "Look at his right leg."

I threw the branch on the ground. The wind had come up just enough so
the male model's trousers, while looking a tad baggy on his left leg,
were pinned tightly to his right leg. He looked as if he were deformed
or wearing a prosthesis.

I made an executive decision. "We'll just wait for the wind to die down."

Brian was always calm no matter what the crisis or calamity. "Dave, it
will be dark in a half hour and even before that they are both going to
have blue lips." It was getting colder.

"All right, so what do we do, Mr. Photographer?"

"Hang on! I'll be right back." He ran to the van and came back with an umbrella.

Now I knew he had lost it. But I was wrong again, which is why I, as
the agency principal, hired a professional to take the pictures.

Uncomfortable as it must have been, the male model, under Brian's
direction, stuck the rolled up umbrella down his right pant-leg.

We all got back into position, the clouds rolled away and I heard the
satisfying click of the shutter. Brian showed me the Polaroid test
shot. It was perfect. Two more shutter clicks and it was done. The
female model, her teeth chattering, slipped into an overcoat and the
male model gingerly removed the umbrella.

The photo turned out
to be gorgeous. The ad was different and arresting. The client was
ecstatic, and Brian, to his credit, resisted the urge to say I told you

I was proud - partly because we had done such a beautiful
ad. I smiled inwardly because, although I didn't mention it to anyone,
I knew the real reason for the ad's success. It was the way the tree
leaves, hanging at just the right angle, framed the sofa and the models
and made the shot look truly beautiful.