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.

So what characters are next?

Well, next up will hopefully be April O’Neil and Casey Jones.
I have a potential model lined up for April. After considering brunette vs. redhead I’ve decided I should go with a redhead for April. And yes, I will be doing something with a variation of the yellow jumpsuit we all know from the cartoons.
For Casey it will be a little more straight forward and true to the character we all know. I’ve spoken with Cazz, a model I photographed two summers back. He’s a model and personal trainer and always in top shape. Also, he photographs well and I need someone that I can show their face in the shot – but don’t worry, his trademark hockey mask will be part of that shoot.

Cazz, the model I originally spoke with about shooting as Casey Jones and some artwork I found online of an artist’s rendition of the character

Splinter and Shredder: I have people in mind for, however I have not yet contacted them. But their styling is in the works. Building Shredder’s outfit will take a bit of time.
Other characters I plan to shoot are Bebop, Rocksteady, Karai (leader of the Foot), and a Foot clan soldier.


So, now for a few behind the scenes shots… I don’t always have someone else there to take BTS photos unfortunately.

Picking up a green screen. Cleared out the dining room at my old place to shoot in. TJ was in town that weekend and was there snapping these BTS photos for me, which was awesome. It’s great that I’ve had him there on many of my shoots over the years.

Getting lighting dialed in that evening with Beau. My shoot was later that night…. after a run and 20-30 minutes of straight lifting to pump up my shoulders and arms before my shoot. In between every 5 photos Beau would do reps with dumbbells to keep his body as ready as possible. TJ, who was on video, pointed out how noticeable it was just standing there and seeing the difference constant curls/etc would make between photos.

After my shoot, during cleanup I snapped one photo of me and Beau (who had already been messing with his face paint). Time to change and get dinner – we didn’t finish til midnight that night!

A group shot at lunch the next day with Beau and TJ, my two best friends. Unfortunately we all live in completely different areas and I don’t see them as often as I’d like.

For Mike’s shoot I went to his place where he had a green screen setup for his own video work and editing that he does.

The last shoot was this past weekend, with Chase. We were shooting at Mike’s old apartment again… however he’s moved for the time being and our friend Andres is living there at the moment and was fine with me coming by to shoot.

So, that’s it for the first phase. I’m glad that I have the four turtles done and can focus on the next sets of characters. Plus it’s much easier when I have something to show people and say “here’s how it’s looking right now” when trying to describe “uh, it’s a Ninja Turtles inspired project…” haha!

And hey, it’s the first shoot I’ve done in a while that the ladies are enjoying, haha! I think I already have a half dozen requests for posters.

Hopefully you guys dig the concept, let me know what you think in the comments or on my Facebook Page. And check back later on for more characters as I add them.

One thought on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – as humans

  1. Love the concept, just like you i am a huge fan of the turtles and i hope you keep it rolling i think some action shots would be great to just my humble idea anyway very cool.

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