L'Enfant - Story of the Poster

History and Background

On 26th May 1986 in a London studio a poster was shot on a shoestring budget, of a male model cradling a newborn baby. The poster was named 'L'Enfant' (the child) and would go on to sell five million copies and become the biggest selling poster in Bristish history. The poster was the brain child of Paul Rodriguez, the artisic director of the Athena poster shop chain. He floated the idea to one of his regular photographers, Spencer Rowell, "I think a shot of a man holding a baby would sell really well". He was right. The shoot took only around 20 minutes. The man in the shoot was 23 year old model Adam Perry and of the 3 babies used the one that would go onto feature in the poster was Stelios Havatzios. Along with images of Che Guevara and 'The Tennis Girl' the poster, which bacame better known as simply 'Man and Baby', would go onto become one of the iconic images of the 80's, ushering in an image of a sexy but sensitive 'New Man'. It also made a fortune for Paul Rodriguez and Spencer Rowell, who negotiated royalties, rather than a fee for his work.

L'Enfant (the child) poster

Original L'Enfant Poster

Curse of the Man and Baby Poster

Adam Perry with Stelios Havatzios then and in 2004

Curse of the Poster

While the poster was a huge success. In the years following the poster almost everyone linked with it seemed to suffer ill fortune and there was talk of the poster being cursed. Paul Rodriguez the art director who concieved the idea of the poster became HIV positive and died of Aids in 1993. The photographer, Spencer Rowell, initially enjoyed a lavish lifestle, funded largely from the royalties of the poster. Including a four-seater aircraft and a cocaine habit. However by 1994 the photographer, who in his own words "put most of the money up my nose", declared himself insovent due to massive debts. Athena, the chain who commissioned the poster went into administration when it failed in 1995. The profitable stores were reopened by its former franchisees, but the last of these ceased trading in September 2014. The model at the centre of the photograph, Adam Perry, unlike Rogriguez and Rowell, saw little financial sucess from the poster and always complained he felt ripped off. Unlike Rowell, who negotiated royalties from the poster, Perry was paid a flat fee of only £100. Obviously a tiny amount considering the money the image generated. In a 2004 British television documentary 'L'Enfant, The Model, the Poster and 3,000 women', Perry boasted of sleeping with over 3,000 women off the back of his fame appearing in the poster.

Revival

Some years later in the 90's hoping to replicate the sucess of the initial poster Third Planet Poster Company with photographer Simon Plant commissioned their own version of the famous 'Man and Baby' poster. For the man in this new version of L'Enfant, up and coming Bristol model, Ian Roberts was selected and as with the original a number of babies were used and rotated for the shoot. Without a chain of shops like Athena selling it, and obviously not outselling the original, the poster was still deemed a huge success, selling over 2 million copies on four continents. It became by far Third Planet's biggest selling poster. Unlike the original poster the participants in the revived copy of L'Enfant seem to have fared better in life. Simon Plant is still working as a photographer, having won a slew of awards and can name Time Magazine, IBM, National Geographic and British Airways among his clients. After a sucessful modeling career, Ian Roberts is now an IT consultant and also a company director and owner of property both here and abroad.

L'Enfant (the child) poster

Ian Roberts in revived L'Enfant

Paul Rogriguez

Paul Rogriguez

Spencer Rowell

Spencer Rowell

Ian Roberts

Ian Roberts 2021

External Links and References

Website by Lauren Edge