In 2008 L.L. Bean contacted Jeff Aronson to use his Land Rover as a prop in their Outdoor Enthusiast Catalogue. The story of that shoot follows below.
Once again, L.L. Bean requested that the QE I serve as a prop for their Summer 2010 catalogue. I drove up to Bar Harbor on September 14, 2009, for the all day shoot. Click here to lean more about the day.
2008 L.L. Bean Catalogue Photo Shoot
L.L. Bean photo models cavort in the QE I
Elise Plakke, L. L. Bean catalogue art director, planned every shot
The crew determines the next shot
“They Picked Your Land Rover?!” [Courtesy, Rovers North News, January, 2009]
By Jeffrey Aronson
It comes as no surprise that the iconic shape of a Land Rover graces so many advertising catalogues. However, in a decision certain to shock the Land Rover community, L. L. Bean chose the QE I, my Land Rover, for their Spring Outdoor Enthusiast Catalogue.
As a shameless media hound I’d like to believe that my fame as an off road driver and Land Rover writer made this decision a drop kick. The truth, to my dismay, would prove otherwise.
Pam Jack, a senior producer for L. L. Bean, knows the appeal of Land Rovers. “I’d been in a Land Rover before – a Range Rover. I lived in Hollywood and was in several chosen as picture cars in shoots. One TV pilot had a character with a new Range Rover. I was ‘forced’ to go get it – of course, someone had to do the hard work!”
“Once the decision made to include a classic car a Land Rover was a natural choice,” Pam noted. This time, though, she had only a short time to find a Series Land Rover for a September photo shoot in Bar Harbor, ME. Despite her long experience in satisfying the whims of catalogue art directors, this task was proving to be a hairball. Two weeks before the scheduled session she still had not found the Land Rover. A phone call to East Coast Rover, a search of the Rovers North web site and the RN Forum, and not long after, I found a private message asking whether I’d agree to have my Rover be part of this L. L. Bean catalogue.
Smug and vainglorious I sent off photos of the worn-out red QM I and the tidier green QE I, photos taken when both Rovers were cleaner and neater – deceptive and unethical, yes, but effective. They were, after all, desperate. The shoot was less than a week away.
Now I confronted an ugly truth. The QE I had to be cleaned up after its daily use as a work vehicle. All traces of tree cutting and clearing, groundskeeping and summer caretaker work needed to disappear. Fashion models probably don’t want to sit on dirty, greasy seats, either. My dash bulkhead collection of R&B cassettes, New England maps, bottle caps, lumber yard receipts, wire ties and insect repellant had to be stored elsewhere. The off-road kinetic rope, tow strap and shackles could not come along. Emptying the car took a long time Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning I started by washing the car, twice. Removing the surface grunge only made the car uglier. I dug out the Waxoyl paint enhancement/polishing kit that I had bought 9 months ago from Rovers North and read the instructions for the first time. Skeptically I sprayed the surface with the lubricant and rubbed it with the clay bar – wow, it worked great! I swapped out the torn rear floor mat and rear jump seats with items I’d once been too lazy to install. I made the ferry and checked into a motel on the mainland. In their parking lot I applied two coats of wax and brushed out the interior. I made a few trips to a nearby auto parts store to buy more cleaning products but by dusk, I had a gleaming, clean Rover – a mere 12 hours of toil!
I made the 2 hour drive to Bar Harbor the next morning. Meanwhile, a very skeptical and fearful Mark Letorney had dispatched Matt Martin of the Rovers North staff to ascertain the veracity of my claims and determine whether I would sully the Land Rover community. We met at a Dunkin Donuts; using my off road navigation skills I took Matt on a leisurely tour to Mt. Desert Island while passing the photo shoot location twice.
The QE I joined a 60-foot tour bus, a 40-foot box truck, and a photographer’s equipment vehicle, 6 toned and tanned female and male models, a chef/driver, a crew to move gear out of the truck, a producer, art director, photographer, make-up artist and many production assistants, even a dog and its trainer. A park ranger helped assure that the production did not interfere with area tourists and visitors.
Elise Plakke, the art director for this catalogue, stared at my Land Rover with a gimlet eye. “The light green paint on your Land Rover is perfect – it softens the overall look of its robust nature - making it complimentary to our models – but that canvas top and frame have to go.” So I unbolted the hoop set and set them in the woods for the day. “Good,” she said, “without the top we can fill it to the max, as it should be on any good road trip!” My efforts to polish the car almost made the grade, but Elise sent out a production person with ammonia and cloths to clean the windows, inside and out (In 18 years of ownership of this Land Rover, I’ve never considered cleaning the windows; that’s why there’s rain.).
I parked the car as requested and then waited for my media call – surely, the fit and strikingly beautiful/handsome models would insist I join them behind the steering wheel. They certainly fawned and cooed over the dog, a Vizula named Seeker, who put her dirty feet on my newly-cleaned seats. I didn’t whine when one stunning model rested her left foot on the clutch as she smiled to the camera; feeling big-natured, I let her ride the clutch. As I watched the production team load up the rear with camping gear, kayaks, coolers and artfully-arranged firewood, I resisted the temptation to drive off with the awesome goods.
Matt Martin, Rovers North’s Senior Designer, clearly understood all that went on around him. He swapped art director chatter with everyone, nodded knowingly as he listened to the photography team and remained on site for the entire day before starting out on his 8 hour drive back to Vermont. Matt also joined me in raiding the tour bus of its outstanding lunch buffet and endless variety of snacks. For my part I moved the car a few times, helped move kayaks and gear, and stayed out of the way. Despite my clean Rovers North t-shirt, my photo call never came. At sunset the production team packed up with remarkable speed as I laboriously reassembled the hoop set and set the soft top. The QE I, still clean and now featuring shiny window glass, looked pretty good to me. Elise Plakke summed up the appeal of a Land Rover. “It’s rugged and honest. Its resilient nature is to be what it set out to be —and no more - is a truth. This multi-purpose vehicle is resourceful and responsible. Like Land Rover, the L.L. Bean brand prides itself on similar values, this type of rugged utilitarianism, speaking to the importance of function following form.”
Right ho – that’s what I meant to say, too.
Copyright 2009, Jeffrey Aronson and Rovers North
Where's Your Land Rover?
So what happens when L.L. Bean decides to use only a few Land Rover photos in their catalogue? Click here to read the follow up story.
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."