Q&A: 'Instagrammer' paperboyo air tags LA

If there is an artist and photographer who can make a claim on air rights, it's Londoner Rich McCor. As paperboyo, his photography and paper-cutting skills taunt landmark architecture with the irreverent aesthetic criteria of street art. It began on his home turf when he showed Big Ben as a wristwatch. He caught my eye when he hit Las Vegas in July and converted the former La Concha Motel lobby, now used by the Neon Museum, into the swept-up skirt of Marilyn Monroe.

Paperboyo was in Dubai two weeks ago. Last week he was in town tagging Los Angeles with air stencils that gave his 222k followers images that include Homer Simpson taking a bite out of Randy's Donut, Banksy's "Maid in London" sweep debris into The Broad Museum, and a skate boarder do a trick off Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Armed with his camera, black paper, and sharp instruments, sometimes he plans out what he will air tag. Often he will "freestyle."

While Los Angeles Landmarks are well known, did you still plan and research before making this trip to the West Coast?

paperboyo-palms-crop.jpgDefinitely. I knew that LA boasted the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Santa Monica Pier and other familiar places but I came across so much more when I started researching landmarks. It was the same when I visited Vegas earlier this year; I started discovering loads of amazing architecture and sculptures that I didn't realize even existed. This hobby has really helped broaden my travel experiences everywhere I go because I'm always discovering new places as well as looking at familiar landmarks in a new way.

How much free-styling did you do in Los Angeles locations?

Not as much as I do when I'm closer to home. In London I can afford to take more time, wait for inspiration to come, but if I'm travelling to a destination for a week then I want to make sure I arrive armed with ideas so that I have a bit of a plan.

Do you carry paper-cutting supplies with you at all times?

Yes, there's always some black card and a scalpel knife in my luggage. I leave it at the hotel of course. I'd rather avoid the potential of being stopped by the police and trying to explain why I'm carrying a knife:

"Why do you have this sharp object on you sir?"
"Well, it's so I can turn that building into a sailing boat?"
"You what?"

You once said you set aside ideas that don't work into "a failed pile." What did not make the cut this trip?

There are always ideas and locations that just don't work, and there's a plethora of reasons why (vantage points, the wind, shadows, etc). I have a folder on my desktop called 'failed ideas,' which has something like fifty photos from around the world that just haven't worked. My rate is usually that about eighty percent of my ideas work, but I think LA was even more successful than that.

I did have some nice ideas with the Hollywood stars but none of those ideas worked at all, which was a shame. They'll be going into that folder on my desktop.

Some of your trips have been sponsored. Was this trip covered or was Los Angeles always a planned destination?

LA was always on my list because I knew it would provide plenty of great content, plus it's a great destination for a Brit in November because it's pretty chilly back home this time of year. The LA tourism board saw the photos I took in Las Vegas earlier this year and asked me if I'd like to come to LA. It was a pretty quick 'yes' from me.

Where's your next stop?

I've got a few projects back in the UK, which will keep me busy until the end of the year. Then I'm off to the French Alps and Brazil in January. I have a book coming out at the end of next year with my photos, so I'll be setting aside some time in February to work with the designer on that but I know I'll be aching to travel again once that's done.

You're a photographer, but it's the silhouette playing off architecture that pulls in your followers. And the image is not complete until it's distributed online. Have people begin calling referring to you just as an Instagram artist?

I've been described in a few ways; a photographer, an artist, a blogger, a non-destructive vandal and a street artist. I'm not sure I entirely align to any of those, but I guess being called an 'Instagrammer' is probably the most suitable -- especially as this is now a full time career for me now.

I like that it's hard to define exactly what I do, I hope in some way it's a confirmation of originality.

END NOTE: A recent post of paperboyo's is not an air tag, but a simple shot from behind the Hollywood Sign with the backstory on Danny Finegood, the Cal State Northridge art major who, in 1976, changed the sign to read HOLLYWEED.

Bonus: LA Observed contributor Ed Fuentes was profiled this fall by Nevada Public Radio.

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