Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. For someone it’s a small acting gig, for others it’s winning a contest. For a teacher from South Africa, his fame comes from Photoshopping images of celebrity Michael Cera on Imgur.
The user (who would like to remain anonymous due to threats) goes by the name ANewBadlyPhotoshoppedPhotoofMichaelCeraEveryday. As that would suggest, he uploads an image to popular photo hosting site and community Imgur everyday. Every image is Mr. Cera’s face stitched into a new environment.
His posts have garnered more than a million “upvotes” (the site’s version of a “Like”) and constantly break onto the front page of the site – no easy feat due to how it is organised based on popularity.
At this point you may be asking “why?” It’s not our job to try and work out what becomes popular on the internet: partly because it’s a madman’s errand and partly because this user picked up the mantle of another user who would literally post the same photo of Micheal Cera everyday. That user’s posts became extremely popular before they stopped posting due to threats.
With that user taken out of the limelight, our man in saw an opportunity and took it. This is his story.
htxt.africa: How did this all start?
ANewBadlyPhotoshoppedPhotoofMichaelCeraEveryday: I was quite an avid gamer, and I spent a lot of time playing online games such as Star Craft and League of Legends. I usually played with friends and while we would wait in game lobbies and queues, friends would often link [to] funny images and/or gifs from Imgur. In time, I created my own account and lurked for a while. Photoshop battles and jokes were always my favourite.
I always found these to be extremely creative. I downloaded Gimp a little while later, but never really got into it. I didn’t really have the motivation to sit through tutorial videos, as I was already spending a considerable amount of time gaming. But I would always browse Imgur at least once a day. My first ever post was actually this one:
I was using another account at the time. I tried to cut back on my gaming hours, and actually took to making a Choose Your Own Adventure story.
It did pretty well and for a few weeks I devoted my time to adding a new chapter a day. I would find gifs and make ways to fit them into my own story line. But after a while it became less and less popular and again I went back to gaming. My friend and I used to have these really lame Photoshop battles on Facebook, where basically I would use Microsoft Paint to edit pictures. The cheesier the better. But he was really good at Gimp, and I decided to give it another try.
It was just about that time that the guy who posted the exact same photo of Michael Cera every day on Imgur decided to quit doing that because of some negative comments and threats he has received. So, I decided to make that photo the object of my project. I wanted to see how creative I could be using just one image. That is the only reason I use Michael Cera. It could have been anyone….it just turned out to be Cera.
How long did this go on for before your images started to get attention?
I posted my first Photoshopped Mona Lisa on August 2nd, and it did ok, but for a few weeks after that I didn’t get much response at all. People didn’t downvote or upvote really. But I really didn’t care. My goal was to practice Photoshopping (Gimping) images, and I was having fun seeing what I could do. Then one day somebody threatened to downvote all my posts if I ever posted again. Really? I posted [the image below] (Come at me bro) and this got me noticed.
That was September 7th.
I did it as a joke, and I never ever expected such a massive response. For me, it was all about getting better. Posting to Imgur was never about getting points or being recognised. It was just a forum where I could see what people thought about my skills or lack there of. I got some cool advice and feedback from a lot of users. So I was really surprised when the posts started becoming popular.
You started a trend of working the images of Michael Cera into other innocuous posts, tricking people into thinking it wasn’t you posting. The “always check the username” saying has also taken on a life of its own. How did that start?
I was actually just adding Cera to various images. Famous paintings, memes and movie covers. Then one day I did this post. It was the first one I ever did where the Cera was hidden. It was meant to be a joke playing of the John Cena meme that was so popular at the time. A few people commented on how they should have known by checking the username. After that the whole ‘check the username’ thing started becoming more and more popular. Posts with obvious Ceras didnt do as well….when I hid them, suddenly they hit [the front page of Imgur]. The game had begun. That post was Sepember 25th…..so about a month into this whole project.
Would you ever use your “internet fame” outside of the internet? Say, for example, you were applying to be a designer or a social media manager, would you count your experiences there in your CV?
No. First off, I don’t have the skills for those positions and secondly, I don’t even want to imagine the look on an interviewers face when I try tell them about what I do. To be honest, the ‘shops I do are not even that great quality. I try hard and have learnt a lot, but I have barely scratched the surface of using Photoshop to its fullest. Plus, this is really just a hobby. The best part of this is getting positive messages from people saying that something I posted brought a smile to their faces. Sounds cheesy…..but it honestly is what keeps me doing it now. I have kinda become pigeon holed into hiding Ceras which means that there is not a lot of room for creativity anymore. But I will keep doing it until people stop appreciating it.