The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – the four brothers, as humans.
My idea and interpretation of what my favorite childhood characters might look like if it were shot with humans instead of mutant turtles.
A project that has been over a year in the making and still has a long way to go before I would consider it complete.
From left to right: Beau as Raphael, Chase as Donatello, Me/John as Leonardo, and Mike as Michelangelo
The idea stems from two things… First, was my desire and interest in doing a ninja-inspired shoot. I love movie imagery and movie posters, and one of my favorite movies for hard-light, rough imagery, is Ninja Assassin with the Korean pop star Rain. He reached an incredible level of fitness for the role and the movie images were hard and rough – to really accent his physique and darker theme.
The twist of doing turtles came from my friend Katie, who was always a huge supporter of my work and different shoots. She joked one night that I should “DO A NINJA TURTLE SHOOT!” since it was my favorite thing as child. My response was “How the hell am I going to do Ninja Turtles?”
It wasn’t until a couple days later that I figured out a way to mix the two.
I figured that if I could assemble four physically-fit, lean, willing models that all I needed to do was match the weapons to the colors of each brother and people would “get it”. The idea of using makeup/face-paint came from my good friend, Makeup Artist Elle Favorule who casually pointed out in conversation “you can just paint on eye-bands instead of trying to figure out a sash or something”. Boom. Done. MUCH easier.
I knew immediately that if I was going to do this then I would be Leonardo. He was my favorite character growing up… and let’s be real, it’s my project. Personally I’m in pretty good shape year round. For this project I doubled my workouts and the amount of food I was eating. Leo is the oldest of the four and the leader – so I knew I had to not only be at top physical condition, but also look like I should be leading. haha
For Raphael it was an easy choice as well. Beau is one of my best friends and in ridiculous shape. I texted him and told him the concept, and said something like “so… uh… stay in shape…” since I knew he was very likely already where he needed to be to shoot. Plus Beau photographs really well and is always down for whatever idea I come up with. Raph is the hothead of the four with an attitude problem and relies on his incredible strength – and I knew Beau could do attitude for me with this shoot.
Michelangelo was an easy choice as well. For the youngest of the four brothers I needed someone high energy and goofy…. well, that’s my good friend Crazy Mike Gaboff – a stuntman and video personality here in Los Angeles. I’d shot with Mike a couple times and knew his smaller, but super lean build would fit the character great. And I figured he would have a lot of fun with it.
Donatello was the most difficult to fill… I went through a couple models, honestly. Ultimately I decided that I wanted someone taller than I am (and I’m 6’2), someone that was lean and even possibly more bulked than me in the photo was the goal. Donny was the calculated, stoic brother and I had a hard time finding someone that I was happy with the final look. Chase is a model I worked with a while back and for some reason, never considered asking. He randomly contacted me, and after pitching the idea, he was down to shoot and help me round out the group. And at 6’4″ and leaned-out he fit the look I wanted.
So what’s next? Click the break for several photos from behind the scenes at the shoots and hear about the next phase of this project.