Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Blown-Away Man

with 35 comments

Rarely has an advertising image been hailed as a pop culture icon. In that rarified company of Marlboro Man and Benetto Pieta belongs this 1978 photograph by Steven Steigman, which would later be known as the Blown-away Man. The ad for Hitachi Maxell, the Japanese manufacture of stereos has since been parodied from Family Guy to P.Diddy, and to this day, has been recycled and reused by Maxell is its ad campaigns.

The ads showed hair and tie of a man sitting in a Le Corbusier chair — along with the lampshade and martini glass next to him — being blown back by the tremendous sound from speakers in front of him. Who actually modeled for the ad is unclear. Steigman wanted a model with long hair (for obvious reasons), but when a model could not easily be found, Steigman used a makeup man working for his ad agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves. The model is identified only as Jack. To achieve the wind-blown position, Steigman put tonnes of hairspay on the model’s hair, and tied some hair strands to the ceiling with fishing lines. The lampshade, tie and martini glass were also likewise tied to fishing lines.

The photo was instantaneously a hit, a powerful statement that music has power and force to move the mind and the soul. It was so popular that it was expended into a TV ad campaign. In the television versions, either Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries or Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain was the music responsible for those powerful waves.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 31, 2010 at 8:46 am

35 Responses

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  1. If I remember correctly, in the tv ad, the talent reaches down and rescues the martini glass (without looking and the bare minimal amount of motion) before it slides off the back edge of the table.

    Then again my memory might just be making this up.

    KiltBear

    May 31, 2010 at 4:30 pm

  2. Interesting. I was always under the impression that it was Peter Murphy in the ad, but it turns out he was only in a UK version of it: http://free.of.pl/b/bauhaus/maxell.jpg

    Peter

    May 31, 2010 at 4:59 pm

  3. MD

    June 2, 2010 at 3:34 am

  4. @MD, thanks! I “so” did not remember the butler in the commercial.

    KiltBear

    June 2, 2010 at 4:18 am

  5. […] grody to the Maxell! Share and Enjoy: […]

  6. Yup. It was Pete Murphey of Bauhaus fame in the UK advert.

    Duncan

    October 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm

  7. […] Needless to say, this thing handily saturates a USB 2.0 connection at around 27 – 30 MB/sec but plug it into one of those blue USB 3.0 ports on newer Macs or PCs and prepare to feel like the “blown away” guy in the Maxell ad. […]

  8. […] Needless to say, this thing handily saturates a USB 2.0 connection at around 27 – 30 MB/sec but plug it into one of those blue USB 3.0 ports on newer Macs or PCs and prepare to feel like the “blown away” guy in the Maxell ad. […]

  9. […] Needless to say, this thing handily saturates a USB 2.0 connection at around 27 – 30 MB/sec but plug it into one of those blue USB 3.0 ports on newer Macs or PCs and prepare to feel like the “blown away” guy in the Maxell ad. […]

  10. […] Dig this: I was sitting in one of those camping chairs that happened to be in the hall after Thanksgiving. Every time my son walked past me, I laughed my head off — I’m sure he thought I was out of my mind, and he’d have been right. What was so funny? The idea that these chairs all had labels showing their fabric content, but not one word about how fast they were! Because as I was sitting there, I could feel myself moving through space at high speed, as an inhabitant of the planet Earth. I felt exactly like this. […]

  11. I was present when the photo was shot, the model was Jac Colello. He had also done hair and make-up for David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and frequently worked with Steve. The glass and olive were shot separately by Steve Bronstien and then retouched into the original. Both Bronstein and Steigman were represented by Charles E. Byrnes The one wall set was built by Chris Noonan and the Art Direction was by Lars Anderson. The chair came from Steve’s apartment also in the 5E19th St. building he owned,

    Chris Noonan

    May 11, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    • Thank you for this detailed account! I have this poster and have always loved it!

      darla shelden

      June 6, 2013 at 7:18 am

    • Hi Chris, Remember me Gary who also Repped Steve with Charie? I remember you and your brother. Both great guys. Did you know that Steve passed about 9 years ago? Email me. Do you know the whereabouts of Charlie?

      gary

      November 27, 2013 at 5:26 am

  12. Just caught an intentional tribute to this photo while watching “Fringe” reruns — Walter sitting in a chair in front of a wall of speakers, same position…

    Robert Waldbauer

    May 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    • Yes, he was listening to a Mozart Requiem, though: not Wagner – Ride of the Valkry (as in the Maxell ads). And, Astrid says, “Do you have any idea how loud that was?”

      AllenJulia Hatfield

      June 8, 2013 at 4:44 am

  13. […] Needless to say, this thing handily saturates a USB 2.0 connection at around 27 – 30 MB/sec but plug it into one of those blue USB 3.0 ports on newer Macs or PCs and prepare to feel like the “blown away” guy in the Maxell ad. […]

  14. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts
    and I am waiting for your next post thank you once again.

  15. I was “blown away in the seventies” by this depiction “Ad”, as I am now. The power of music can put you in different moods on different days. Oldies/jazz/classical/country…as long it’s music.

    pierre

    July 18, 2013 at 2:18 am

  16. Where can I get a copy of this poster? Also, does anyone rememeber the t-shirt done with the skeleton sitting in the car? if so, any idea where I can find one of thoe?

    Karin

    July 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm

  17. Has anyone noticed that this guy has an erection?

    Tom

    October 9, 2013 at 1:20 am

  18. I was on set for this photo because I was representing Steve Steigman at the time. It was actually shot in 1979 and I know the Art Director who created the concept and the name of the man in the chair. If you are curious, email me.

    gary

    November 27, 2013 at 5:21 am

    • Hi Gary. My hubby is Jak C.’s cousin… he has always been told that it is him in that chair. Is it? We would love to have confirmation! Thanks!

      Julie Falbo

      January 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      • Hi Julie, Yes, that is Jac C. I was there, as the photographer’s set builder. Gary and I have spoken recently about the shoot and Jac. I’m sure that when he sees your post that he too will confirm Jac as the model. See my earlier post for more details.
        Chris N.

        Chris Noonan

        January 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      • HI, I am Gary and I was Steve Steigman’s assistant representative at the time. I was at that shoot with Chris Noonan. I think the shoot took place in 1979. I had just started working with Steve. The model was definitely Jack Collello. How that happened is that they wanted a model with long light hair and the hair styles were short then. Steigman hired Jack to be the Hair Stylist on the shoot. Jack was a top commercial hair stylist and Steigman used him for most of his jobs. When they had trouble finding a model Steigman turned to Jack and said ” Jack, you would be perfect”. And Jack was hired as the model in the chair. He was also hired on the subsequent ad with the Porche’s Roof being blown away. It is positively Jack. The image was behind the dancer’s bed in the movie “Flashdance” Jack was also in the TV commercial.
        Gary

        Gary Hurewitz

        January 11, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      • Hi Julie, I never respond to these, but I can guarantee the guy is Jac Colello as I am his niece :) and I have the pictures of him doing David Bowie’s hair. Can I assume your husband is Ramond, or Tony?

        Tisha Phillips

        February 5, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      • It was Jack all right. I’m also a cousin of Jack. I think maybe a second cousin. His Mom was my great Aunt Lena I believe.

        Kim Furillo Stone

        November 19, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      • Hey, I was there. I knew Jack very well. I was at his New Years Eve party that year. What an event. Unfortunately, Jack was an early victim of AIDS, before they knew what it was or had any treatments. He was also in the Porsche with the roof blowing off. Amazing how that image is talked about 35 years later.

        Gary Hurewitz

        November 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm

  19. […] is a commonly held idea that sound makes the air travel out like a fan. This can be seen in the classic 1978 Maxwell ad that shows a guy’s hair blown back due to some rockin speakers. In my usual fashion, I have made […]

  20. The “Blow Away” shot had become iconic. It is hard to believe that it was taken 35 years ago. Steve Steigman was considered a Top commercial photographer at the time but this shot catapulted him into the top level. There was a point when he was considered one of the Premiere photographers in the country. He would have assignments almost every day and some days have double bookings. Steigman would say, “Just book em in and I will find a way to shoot them”. The Agency that created the add was Scali McCabe Sloves, which was one of the hottest agencies on Madison Avenue. It was actually on Third Ave. The creative director was Lars Anderson who was the stereotype, cool, good looking “Madmen” type of creatives in the 70″s. There was a subsequent Ad with the roof of a Porsche blowing up in the air. There was also another ad that was never produced. It was the same style and visual as original ad but instead of the stereo there was a window with an atomic bomb going off in the distance and the figure in the chair turning into an Xray. Maxell, the client, thought the ad was too radical and killed it. Steigman played with the idea of doing it as a sample but never did it. The original ad was put together by hand by the top retouchers of the day, Spano Rocanova. This was obviously before Photoshop. Steigman would go on to shoot many memorable ads including the first NIke Poster of John McEnroe in front of the Brooklyn Bridge.
    Steigman created the company “Big City” and at it’s height it had 6 print photographers and many TV directors. Steigman was a brilliant self made man who mentored many people including myself. I have been a successful commercial photographers representative for 35 years and I owe much of my knowledge and success to Steve Steigman.

    Gary Hurewitz

    January 11, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    • Thank you for the information on “Blown Away”, I remember this art concept growing up. I am doing a essay of this picture, so thank you again for the interesting information.

      Jamie Rogers

      May 19, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      • Is this for school? If you need any additional information feel free to ask. I was present at the shoot and was Steigman’s representative (agent).

        Gary Hurewitz

        May 19, 2014 at 6:51 pm

  21. […] the critics.) Instead, for me, opera offers the experience of the man sitting in the armchair in that famous Maxell ad. It’s everything blasting at you: orchestra, powerful and un-amplified voices, sets, […]

  22. Gary Hurewitz! Priscilla Croft here. How sad I am to learn on this forum that Steve passed away 9 years ago.
    I had a dream last night in which Steve and I were having a conversation, hence the search for him today.
    –To others reading this, I worked with Steve A LOT in the late 70s (I was an art director at Needham, Harper & Steers working on the Xerox account). Steve Steigman was one of the good guys in advertising. He worked his tail off and it showed in his work. Always a pleasure to work with, always a gentleman. Open, kind hearted, and as live a wire as ever was.
    The model in the shot looked exactly like Lars (long hair, lanky, sunglasses, leather jacket), and we (other art directors) used to laugh about that. Not only was it cool looking, but Lars kinda pulled one over.
    I knew Lars and was greatly inspired that this was shot exactly according to his vision, without compromise, with Steve’s crew making it all come together.
    I think this shot blew away other art directors at the time, raised the bar, expectations and hopes of what one could “get away with” (which was how creative people saw this kind of ad without product placement, huge logos, bla copy droning away about the virtues of the product, etc).
    In fact, after that I would go into meetings with creative directors who would command, “Give me another Maxel.” no matter what the product was. Thanks a lot Lars and Steve!
    I ramble. So, hi Gary, thanks for the sad news.

    priscilla croft

    February 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    • Hi there Priscilla. Yes it is true that Steve is not with us anymore. I had lunch with him on a Thursday and that Saturday I got the call. I would like to tell you about the details so please send me your personal email or contact me by phone.
      When It happened I got a call from Alan Kaye and Neil Leinwohl. It has been many years since I spoke to them. Those were the great agency days. It has all changed. So please contact me and we can catch up.
      Gary.

      Gary Hurewitz

      February 11, 2014 at 12:47 am

  23. […] Rarely has an advertising image been hailed as a pop culture icon. In that rarified company of Marlboro Man and Benetto Pieta belongs this 1978 photograph by Steven Steigman, which would later be known as the Blown-away Man. The ad for Hitachi Maxell, the Japanese manufacture of stereos has since been parodied from Family Guy to P.Diddy, and to this day, has been recycled and reused by Maxell is its ad campaigns — via Iconic Photos […]


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