Apr 16, 2021

Some Prose on Posing

Cross your arms and voila: You’re a Realtor!

By Ed Goldman
I watch as two waiters stand together, back-to-back, surveying the dining room at The Sutter Club’s “L Street Bistro,” the cleverly converted third floor of the institution’s parking garage. It’s an outdoor venue, created to keep serving meals and cocktails to the club’s membership when COVID requirements forced restaurants to serve only al fresco.

The two men may as well be Old West gunfighters, taking a moment to assess the odds of winning a fight against the Clantons (of OK Corral infamy). I hear Elmer Bernstein’s rousing score for “The Magnificent Seven” on the soundtrack in my feverish mind.

Edgy Cartoon

Writers are shelf-ish individuals

Ah, there’s something so compelling about the no-nonsense pose. Some thoughts, if you’ll permit the upgrade:

-Real estate agents strike the same pose most of the time: They cross their arms and stare into the camera, their faces smiling but firm—as if to say, “Go ahead. Make my sellers an offer they can refuse.”

-Developers, especially the guys, like to pose at their job sites, holding a rolled-up set of plans in one hand, a firm mayoral handshake in the other. They often are depicted wearing hard hats emblazoned with their company’s logo, white shirts and ties but, significantly, no jackets—as if to suggest that at any second they’re going to send all of the union carpenters on break, roll their sleeves up—while being careful not to catch their Rolex watchbands in their monogrammed Mansur Gavriel cufflinks or on their David Yurman pinkie rings —and build the damn homes themselves. And why? Because this is America, for God’s sake.

-For some reason, CEOs enjoy having photos taken of themselves at their desks, sometimes while on the phone and looking up in semi-surprise, as though the photographer caught them in the act of being forceful-but-fair leaders.

-Attorneys prefer to be pictured in front of bookcases, presumably in their vast, multi-volumed law libraries. I’m not sure why they consider this good advertising. To me, it sends a message that they may not know anything about your case but do know how to look stuff up. It would be like a mechanic standing in front of a poster featuring the diagram of a car engine. (Now, a butcher often displays drawings of cows with various portions labeled—but that’s to help consumers decide if they want a T-bone, ribeye or fillet, not as locators for the butcher, who already has a pretty good idea where to find them.)

-Talent agents, theatre directors and producers like to show themselves in offices decorated with posters from famous performers or productions they may have had nothing to do with.

-Many physicians think you’ll be comforted if they wear a stethoscope and white coat in their official photos. Surgeons like sporting their green scrubs and sometimes, caps. Cosmetic dentists enjoy pictures in which they and their staff are grinning maniacally, exhibiting their perfect smiles and a shade of Day-Glo white that doesn’t exist in the natural environment.

-There was a trend in advertising for a number of years in which insurance agents and political candidates made sure their boundlessly happy families were shown smiling and maybe even hugging the mom or dad who was, respectively: (a) selling whole-life insurance policies to Death Row inmates or (b) their ideas on how to cut taxes while still paying for schools, infrastructure, healthcare, college tuition, housing the homeless and combatting climate change. This may be why in some of the outtakes the kids are seen rolling their eyes.

– Owners of professional sports teams frequently have their own pictures taken in empty stadiums. I’m not sure this is good salesmanship. They probably think it demonstrates what a large, immaculate venue you’ll be coming to—but in this entering post-pandemic era, I find it’s too much of a reminder of how attendance understandably plunged when they weren’t allowed to let in any attendees.

-Tech startups have a difficult time finding proper imagery to illustrate what they do. Some think there’s nothing more compelling than a photo of seven people standing around a computer. Others opt for abstract graphic solutions, implying that what they do is somewhat akin to the familiar DNA nucleic acid double helix, combined with multiple arrows, to delineate either work flow or colonoscopies-in-progress.

As a final aside: Sometimes, even language fails startup boosters, which may be why so many of them disappear along that golden path to IPO Nirvana.

A friend of mine and I once met with just such a company, which wanted to engage us to create a prospectus for potential investors. After the Nevada City company’s top brass gave us a 20-minute sales pitch, my friend, a graphic designer who shall remain nameless (oh, all right, it’s the talented watercolorist Michael Dunlavey), asked, “And what is it you do, exactly?”

After another 20 minutes of listening to them blather, Mike and I thanked them and left, stopping for a calming beverage before making the drive back down the Sierra foothills. I told Mike the tech folks’ unspoken answer to his excellent question was, “’Well, we aren’t sure.’” We took on the client anyway but asked for our writing/designing fees up front. They paid within a month and, as I recall, went out of business within a year.

But Mike and I were paid. It proves that sometimes it’s less costly to pose a question than for a photo.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).