Sometimes the creative juices just hit you. They did on Thursday while on the phone with Graffiti Indoor Advertising's Melissa Corbin. She was looking to place ads around town to promote East Nashville Business during the I-24 weekend closures. It was during that conversation that the detail, the look, the headline and the style came to me in a vivid vision of brain synapses.
On Tuesday of the same week I was talking with Ashley Segroves about the business of creativity when she inquired about my chamber membership (I was planning on renewal but hadn't quite yet). She told me about an idea Chamber East was cooking up using Graffiti's bathroom ad spaces. The thinking was that I could jazz up my map with a nice headline and print that on the ad. I didn't really think of the problem itself until Thursday's phone call.
Or, maybe I did. You see, I live and work on the east side of Nashville, TN. Art Dude is a member of the Historic East Nashville Merchants Association. When the interstate closures were made apparent shortly before the actual closure I was concerned my friends couldn't make it to my birthday party. I drew up a little map with alternate routes into East Nashville for my friends and family. I shared that map with HEMNA and the social-sphere right as a level of panic hit the East Nashville retail community.
The problem is easily stated. If it's not easy to get there people won't go there, so we need to remind them. That's the essence of advertising: announce your products and services. Tornados and flooding proved an announcement of sorts to East Nashville so why can't a planned tragedy work in our favor.
I can't tell you the progression of thoughts because there was only the one. I can't recite some algorithm from which the idea hatched because it didn't flow that way. Out of an understanding of the problem and experience with the medium (bathroom ads) an idea came. I drew a quick sketch and started planning.
I needed a DOT worker, or some semblance of one. A quick search of royalty free stock photography confirmed the uselessness of that option in a case like this. I needed an outdoor laborer in a reflector vest and hard hat holding one of those "Stop" vs. "Slow" signs that I would digitally edit to say "Open". A construction barrel would help. I also needed a pro photographer because I wasn't confident in my ability to create the work-of-art required. Oh, and I needed the right lighting. We would have to wait on that.
The laborer turned out to be easy. Someone recognizable yet normal enough. I didn't know mayor Dean's number but I did know the 'mayor' of East Nashville. Tom Hadley has been HEMNA's president for almost two years and he has kept that role very visible in the community. One quick email secured our DOT worker.
TNDOT actually granted permission to use a vest, hard hat, sign and construction barrel but after the fact. No fault of theirs as we got the whole thing done in 20 hours. What I did find was a hard hat on the bottom shelf of my tool shed. A quick squirt with the hose and it was ready. Work gloves, a pair of safety glasses, and a reflector vest from Cumberland Hardware completed Tom's characterization.
The biggest missing part was now a handheld sign. While asking about other pieces Bret MacFadyen gave me a scrap of 1/8 inch plywood. Some bright yellow poster-board, spray paint, and electrical tape from Dollar General got me started. A post I made years ago for our clothes line became the sign's post.
Finally, I needed someone to polish the paragraph of text. I'd gotten it started but some of the words were not flowing well. Melanie Meadows was gracious enought to jazz it up and it is so much better.
Photography required more than a search through nooks and crannies. It required time, effort and a shared inspiration. Luck would have it that Ashley Segroves made herself available for what turned out to be a 7 hour commitment. An early arrival in 5 points afforded us some important adjustments and over 180 frames. Passers by participated. Dogs even joined the fun. Tom could not have been more perfect for the East Nashville greeter role, but waiting on best light was the trick. I wanted a look of approaching headlights on Tom who would be set off from the darkening sky background with passing car lights. This required a specific amount of light behind and in front. When the right moments came Ashley was constantly adjusting the strobe and her camera because the sun was changing so rapidly. During the final burst of 30 images we played with expressions, motion, oncoming cars and aperture not knowing what the results were going to be (there's a tiny screen on the back of the camera that helps but cannot confirm the appropriateness of the shots).
Going through each shot for go/no-go took almost an hour but when Ashley and I saw the One we both knew. Thank you Melissa, Tom, Bret, Melanie, TNDOT and especially Ashley. This one was fun.