If you were a kid in the late Eighties, chances are you collected the gruesome-but-fun Garbage Pail Kids trading cards.
Topps created quite a stir with their trading cards, which were even banned in some schools because they were considered to be a distraction to obsessed children.
The GPKs have been revived from time to time in the intervening period, but none were reimagined quite like those created by the team at Bruton Stroube, to mark the 30th anniversary of the originals.
The idea came about over a lunch between Brandon Voges, commercial lifestyle photographer at Bruton Stroube, and his friend Jake Houvenagle, a local art director and designer.
Over drinks, Jake explained how he’d come up with the plan to depict the Garbage Pail Kids as he imagined they might have become, 30 years on. And the real twist was that he wanted to photograph them as real people with extended back stories.
Brandon was hooked by the idea, so they picked which six characters to update, thinking through their stories and squeezing the shoots in between other commercial work.
Brandon and Jake, as conceptual designer and photographer, were joined by set builders, location and casting assistants, wardrobe and props specialists, and a writer to create the photos. Each shoot took just one day, but even with the best photos another talented creative was needed to make each shot perfectly disgusting.
Step forward Bruton Stroube’s professional digital imaging wizard Jordan Gaunce, who went on to spend around 12 hours painstakingly compositing and retouching each card to transform them into the final Garbage Pail Kids Adult Variant Series.
Early characters felt most recognisable and were likely to have the richest back stories, the team thought. And as you might imagine, very few of the Garbage Pail Kids had lived straightforward lives. The iconic face of the card series, the explosive Adam Bomb, starts off the collection placed in a scene almost identical to where he was in 1985 and even wearing the same suit (in an adult size)…
Clogged Duane is now running a plumbing business—seen here before and after…
Unexpectedly, Barfin’ Barbara—once an outcast when she first started using her own vomit in her cooking—has made a successful career as a private chef in Hollywood. The trend for organic produce means that her intestinally-marinated meats and stomach-pickled organic veggies grace the tables of some of the biggest A-listers.
Each shot needed a location, casting, wardrobe and expert set dressing to add authenticity—and in Barbara’s case this included having some fake vomit to pour over what might once have been a delicious roast chicken. (The fresh delivery of gastro-sauce is pictured still dribbling down her hand.)
In the case of Noah Body—nowadays in charge of his own pencil business—the process included an office filled with props, a model head shot, a bowling ball on a cushion, fake newspapers and certificates and a full city skyline.
After the shoots, the retouching process could get started. Using a beta version of Affinity Photo, alongside Photoshop, Jordan transformed each shot to achieve grotesque characters that were larger than life, hairier, bigger, sweatier, more disgusting, or sadder as their personalities and back stories required.
And Jordan says the freedom that came from using a new tool played a valuable part in the end result.
“Affinity Photo featured many things other editors just don’t have. Favourites that you can see in the retouching video are the Mesh Warp tool, the Lighting filter, and on-the-fly Liquify. The Mesh Warp tool is probably the one I used most for the GPK project, the fact that I can set my own points and toggle the handles in any direction in real time is great. I also feel it handles pixel distortion far better than the leading photo editing program does at this moment.”
“Liquify is another feature I prefer in Affinity Photo over the others. I can use it on the spot without opening a new window or waiting around for the tool to open. This saves time and frustration. The workflow for Mesh Warp and Liquify are so fluid that it makes working far more enjoyable; I can maintain my creative flow without interruption. Finally, the one feature that truly blows me away is Live Filter Layers. I have only just started to play around with them so far and think it’s pretty amazing, having filters you can adjust instantly and toggle on and off.”
Bruton Stroube is an exciting photo and motion studio in St. Louis, Missouri. The studio has some major clients with brands that include Pizza Hut, Budweiser, Stella Artois, GE, and Coors to name but a few.
Details of the project are courtesy of Brandon Voges on their blog and Jordan Gaunce.
See more of Jordan’s digital art on his Behance profile.
If you own the Affinity Photo Workbook, check out Jordan’s digital manipulation project ‘Grilled Cheese’.
A version of this article was published in July 2015 on [Creative Bloq] (https://www.creativebloq.com) (no longer available). A Spanish language version was also published on gràffica in September 2015.