In May 2013, the name and Photoshop projects of NYC-based graphic designer PeejeT spread virally, perhaps faster than any single meme. Patrick Thorendahl makes his dreams (and those of most people) come true by inserting himself into photos with celebrities, typically where their children or spouses would be. He also gets extra creative and adds himself into situations (like behind Nicki Minaj on the cover for her "Anaconda" single, which she herself re-Instagrammed).
So what sets PeejeT apart from any kid on Tumblr cutting and pasting themselves into the lives of the rich and famous? Well, for starters, he's pretty good at this, and it's impressive, because he's apparently self-taught. All of his images are hilarious and show an awareness of which celebrity images spread around the Internet naturally. And he doesn't just create these for fun, either; he actually started this project to get himself graphic design commissions (and it's worked).
Recently, PeejeT's work has had a resurgence online, so we caught up with him to see what it really takes to continually please his 153K and growing Instagram following.
How long have you been Photoshopping yourself into images with celebrities? Why and how did you start? Are you self-taught or did you take classes?
According to my Instagram, I started doing this 118 weeks ago. I haven't been outside since. I honestly don't really remember why I started. I pretty much make up an answer every time someone asks me that. I used to make horrible edits of myself on Microsoft Paint back in the day. Eventually I got my hands on Photoshop and just started teaching myself how to use it.
Has your main motivation continued to be promoting yourself as a graphic designer, or do you like the humorous aspect of your work and being able to entertain your followers on Instagram, too?
I've continued to make these pictures because I love people's reactions to them. It is a plus that the more exposure I receive, the more work I get, but I just love making people laugh.
What are some of the craziest or best things that have happened as a result of your Photoshop work with celebrities? Have you gotten business from them for projects unrelated to these photos?
It's just crazy where it's taken me so far. I've been able to meet and work with a lot of great people all because of my Instagram page. I went from living in Kansas to moving to NYC and hanging out in the studio with people like Meek Mill (FREE MEEK MILL!!!). Social media is a beautiful thing.
Have any celebrities issued cease and desists or asked you to stop? If they did, would you?
No, I haven't had any cease and desists or anything. If they did ask me to stop, I guess I would. I don't see that happening, though. All my pics are in good fun and aren't meant to be defamatory in any way.
Do you actually wish you could hang out with the people you Photoshop yourself into situations with, or not really?
I mean, if Jay Z and Beyonce wanted to hang out with me, that would be pretty cool, but I'm not as creepily obsessed with these people as my pictures may lead you to believe. Okay, I might be.
Nicki Minaj recently re-Instagrammed the image of you holding her ass from the "Anaconda" cover. What was your reaction to that? How do you think she found it?
[Laughs] That was awesome. I figured she most likely saw it because it got retweeted so many times. I do know some people who are close with her camp, and they said they showed her or whatever, but who knows. She didn't repost it until 3 days after, so I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool to see that.
What are your most-liked pieces on Instagram?
There's a picture of myself holding Billy Ray's eyes shut during Miley's VMA performance last year that has over 20,000 likes. Also the one where I'm holding Kim's "fake ass" has close to 20,000 likes, as well. It's funny, the idea of that picture happened by accident when I was trying to do something else with the photo.
Do you have a favorite piece?
My current favorite piece is the one of myself, Jay Z, and Beyonce on the moped. Someone else made that pic into a meme that's been shared like a zillion times.
How long do you spend on a single piece, on average?
On average I'd say 45 minutes. The hardest part is getting the right photo of myself. Once I have that, the Photoshopping part is pretty easy.
Who would be your dream design collaborator?
Hmm, my dream design collaborator? I can't say that I have one. Picasso wouldn't collaborate with Leonardo da Vinci. I'm the Pablo Picasso of this shit!!! Just kidding.
What's your advice for aspiring Photoshop wizards like yourself?
YouTube. Seriously, that's how I learned.