London-based artist Paperboy travels the world making art, playfully subverting the places he visits with photos of his paper cutouts. Since deciding to quit his job in the creative industry, he has visited places as far flung as New Zealand, South Korea, Dubai and even Easter Island, to create new work.
In 2015 Rich found himself frustrated with his job and used his interest in photography to satisfy his unfulfilled creative desires. Inspired by the independent nature of the art form and drawn in by the ‘instant gratification’ it offered, he began taking pictures of London on his days off.
Looking to Instagram for inspiration, McCor quickly realised how much competition he had as a London photographer. ‘I just saw so many people taking amazing photos of the city in ways I had never seen before,’ he tells Culture Trip. ‘The innovation all around me inspired me to push my photography skills to that next level and work out a style for my photography that was entirely unique.’
And so he turned to an old hobby, cutting and fashioning paper into various shapes and combining them with photos. It was a skill he developed when making music videos with his friends a few years earlier.
McCor’s first paper-cutout photograph was taken on Westminster Bridge. He cut a stencil in the shape of a wristwatch and framed it around the face of Big Ben. Using cleverly measured perspective, McCor snapped a photo that created the illusion of a watch. As he stood in front of the London landmark, a father and daughter walked by. When they expressed interest, McCor showed them the photo and their enthusiasm led him to take the concept further. In those moments, the persona of Paperboyo was born.
That first photo was the beginning of an artistic love affair with the city McCor calls home. ‘London is such a photogenic city,’ he explains. ‘There’s a vibe here, there’s an energy. It’s an inspiring heartbeat that makes me want to be active. So much is constantly changing in this city; you have to keep up to stay alive.’
After a year and a half photographing London in his free time, the artist had enough freelance projects lined up to pay his bills for the next few months. And so he took a leap of faith, quitting his job, rebranding his Insta as Paperboyo and taking to the streets of his city full-time.
‘London boasts one of the few cityscapes in the world where a thousand-year-old building sits entirely naturally next to a one-year-old one,’ McCor exclaims. ‘It was the variety of architecture in London that inspired me to look at my surroundings differently and led directly to me to doing what I do now.’
McCor currently works full-time as an artist. He finds himself scouring the internet every day for architecture news and making sure he is aware of every new building popping up in the UK capital in case he decides to photograph it.
Over the years, McCor’s process has always remained the same. Once he finds a building he wants to play with, the photographer just lets his imagination run free. ‘When figuring out which stencil to use, I try not to put a filter on any of my ideas. I try to focus on the humour and the wit in a building and then literally just do whatever comes to mind.
‘I write down a few concepts or do a quick sketch, and then I just choose the best one. That final choice is nothing but a gut instinct. There’s a certain feeling I get about it. It makes me smile and then I know.’
The duration of McCor’s artistic process varies. It can be as quick as a few minutes or as long as a few months. His longest-ever project – an image of London’s Tower Bridge – took him a year and a half to complete. ‘It’s such an iconic building, I really wanted to get it right,’ he tells us. ‘For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to do, and then one day, 18 months later, I was talking to a friend and they happened to bring up rollercoasters and that was that.’
A book featuring his work called Around the World in Paper Cutouts was published in October 2017 and documents his ongoing global project. McCor plans to continue to taking on the world, one cutout at a time. ‘I haven’t done South Africa, I haven’t done Tokyo,’ he says. ‘There are so many places I still want to go and explore.’
But, despite his wanderlust, McCor’s allegiance remains to the city where it all began: ‘I’ll always find places that I’ve never been to before because London is so big, so diverse and so interesting. Coming back here just starts the whole cycle again for me.
‘And let’s be honest, when the sun’s out in this city there’s nowhere better to be.’