A cut above the rest
How a paper artist is helping people see the world differently
Rich McCor says he’s seen a monkey knock over Stonehenge. He also swears he’s seen a giant crocodile attack Brighton Pier, the Statue of Liberty lift weights, a large octopus that lives in Rome’s Colosseum and a dragon fly over the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
A story about a huge ape destroying one of England’s most important historical relics would surely have been on the news. Then again, it might not have been crazy enough to hit the headlines, considering the events of the past year.
However, McCor is telling the truth. Just check out his Instagram page.
The photographer and artist, who is also known as PaperBoyo, sees the world differently to most people. He’s turned his hobby of cutting card into shapes and holding them next to the world’s biggest landmarks into a successful business that has seen him work with companies such as Microsoft and Hollywood star Will Smith.
As he travels across the world, McCor always carries the same five things with him: card, scissors, a camera, his Surface Book 3 and a Surface Pen. He can live without everything else.
“I want people to see the world differently, to show them there’s more than one way to view what’s around us,” he says. “I get messages from the public saying: ‘I’ve walked past the same buildings for years, and now I see them in a completely new way’. I love that. That’s the reason why I do what I do.”
By placing a card cutout into a photo, McCor can transform a building into a Dalmatian dog (his favourite picture), the O2 in London becomes Captain America’s shield, a roof is Marilyn Monroe’s billowing skirt, and the London Eye turns into a bicycle wheel.
It’s the result of days – sometimes weeks – of research on social media and architecture websites, planning and waiting for the right conditions to take the perfect shot.
“I’ve got an intuition for seeing something and knowing whether or not I’ll be able to come up with an idea for it,” McCor, 33, says. “I collect a few images of the building, or whatever I want to capture, on my laptop and just start doodling over the top. At this point I’m just messing around, it’s not neat, nothing tidy, I’m just playing around and seeing what ideas come out.
Paperboyo: Beneath The Surface – Episode 1
Paperboyo: Beneath The Surface – Episode 2
Paperboyo: Beneath The Surface – Episode 3
“I try to get a handful of ideas that I like, because quite often there are things that might go wrong with the shoot. When I get to the location, there might be scaffolding or the building might have been demolished, which has happened a couple of times.”
McCor creates card cutouts of his ideas, packs his bag and heads to the location.
“The process of taking the photos can take hours. I like to take my time and make sure I’ve got the right angle,” he adds. “Even if I’ve got an angle that I really like, I walk around the building just in case there’s a better one. Sometimes the sunlight can really affect how a photo comes out. One image I tried to capture had colourful glass in it. In the morning, it looked quite flat and dull. When I went back in the afternoon, the sunlight was hitting the glass and was reflecting colour all over the place. It looked completely different. It all taps into my theme of trying to see things differently.”
Once he’s held up the card cutouts and taken the photos, McCor goes home and edits the images.
“The Surface Book helps me evolve my creative side, which is simply about helping me to unlock my imagination and put my ideas down on ‘paper’ to bring them to life,” he said. “If I have an idea, I want to be able to express it without worrying if I have the right hardware to cope with the colours and images. The Surface Book doesn’t get in the way of my creativity, it enables my creativity.”
Once he’s happy with the image, he posts it to his 481,000 followers on Instagram, occasionally tagging relevant topics, places or accounts.
One of those accounts is @LONDON, which showcases incredible images of the city for its 2.5 million followers. “Rich is a genius,” says Dave Burt, who runs @LONDON and is a friend of McCor – the pair have been taking photos together since before the PaperBoyo brand became known across the world. Burt used to run monthly get-togethers for hundreds of photographers and the group would walk around London taking interesting photos and publish them on Instagram. Early on, McCor stuck out from the crowd.
Burt says: “At that time, everybody was thinking, ‘How can I celebrate the city around me?’ or ‘How can I shoot the city around me?’. Rich created another layer to that, which was ‘How can I play with the world around me?’ and ‘How can I interact with the world around me?’.”
McCor has been interested in arts and crafts since he was a child. He started cutting up bits of paper and cardboard that were lying around the house, using scissors and experimentation because it was “cheaper than buying paints and canvases”. That led to stopmotion video and shooting short films. He continued to develop his skills throughout school and college until a friend, who was in a band, asked him to create some cutouts for a music video.
He joined the burgeoning @LONDON group and started sketching landmarks and holding up his own drawing next to them before taking a photo of the two side by side. However, McCor felt like he was drawing attention away from the landmark, which is what he wanted to celebrate in his work. His first cut-out idea was to turn Big Ben into a wristwatch.
“I held up the paper cutout of a wristwatch in front of the clock face, and I remember feeling really nervous because there were lots of people on the bridge taking photos,” he says.
“I felt like people were watching me, thinking, ‘What’s he doing? What’s he up to?’ But when I looked at the photo in the camera screen and I saw the result, it was just pure excitement. I felt like I had something, and it was something I hadn’t seen anyone else do.”
Now, companies fly him around the world to create new cutouts, and cities become playgrounds full of creativity and opportunity. Burt remembers one trip to Japan.
“Rich saw a building and said, ‘Oh, I could turn that into a penguin’. I mean, I’m not being funny, I don’t walk around looking at buildings thinking, ‘Oh, that could be a penguin’,” he laughs.
Another memorable trip for McCor was Easter Island, a location he admits was on his “Bucket List”. He turned the famous stone statues into a table football team.
Then it was off to Budapest, in Hungary, where he was given the chance to work with actor Will Smith, who was shooting Gemini Man in the city.
“I was very nervous about meeting him,” McCor remembers, “but he was really friendly and chatty.
“I had an idea that Will Smith would be running away from a paper cut-out doppelganger that would be shooting at him. It turned out to be one of the most successful pieces I’ve ever posted on Instagram. Will put it on his Instagram page as well and my audience grew a lot. That was definitely the biggest project I’ve done so far.”
In 2018 McCor released a book of his work, entitled Around the World in Cut Outs.
At the moment, McCor is currently working with Microsoft on a co-curated content series called “Beneath the Surface” which explores the barriers Brits face when it comes to pursuing their passions and turning their ideas into a reality. This follows research from Microsoft that revealed that almost half of all Brits may never pursue their passion due to a “lack of creative skills”.
Beneath the Surface is brought to life via a series of IGTV episodes which sees McCor meet a range of everyday Brits who also see the world a little bit differently. The series is designed to inspire Brits to look at the world with a fresh lens and pursue new passions and interests regardless of whether they consider themselves to be “creative” or not.
The global events of the past year might have limited the travel side of his work, but McCor is still very much in demand. He enjoys being busy.
“The emotional roller-coaster of the whole process is quite addictive,” he says. “Some ideas you don’t think will work and end up surprising you. That’s really exciting. That’s what happened with the Dalmatian dog image in Basel, Switzerland. It’s just a black and white apartment building outside the city centre, but it’s really striking. I had that moment of realising there’s definitely something I could do with it. I shot it, the dots connected and I had an almost euphoric feeling. It’s hard to describe. I’m really happy with how it came out.”
McCor is now looking to include more animation in his work, small movements to bring the images to life. But whatever he does and wherever he goes, his Surface Book will be with him, connecting him to his fans.
“After all the work, I get to see other people enjoy it. I see people comment on the pictures and that’s a beautiful finale. It can be draining, it can be exhausting, but I’ve never had another job like it – and I don’t think I ever will.”