When it comes to promoting his work, photographer is all ‘thumbs’

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Photographer Justin Paulsen made severed thumb drives to send to art directors. Photo: Justin Paulsen
Photographer Justin Poulsen made severed thumb drives to send to art directors. Photo: Justin Poulsen

To get a “thumbs-up” from art directors, photographer Justin Poulsen provided the thumb.

In an act of creative expression that Van Gogh would appreciate, the Toronto-based Poulsen sent out his work on thumb drives that he made to look like realistic severed thumbs.

After the initial shock, who wouldn’t want to plug it in and have a look at the contents?

“I wanted to share a physical experience that exemplifies the type of creativity that I bring to my photography/creation,” said Poulson, whose marketing material includes a picture of a hand missing a thumb and suggests that hiring his services will help the brand to “Stick out like a sore thumb.”

The thumb drive includes a video and links to his website. No two thumbs are alike in the 50 he created and each gets wrapped in gauze.

At just 25, Poulsen already has a productive career as a freelance photographer, shooting for architectural firms, advertising agencies and editorial clients and his portfolio shows an aptitude for conceptual photo illustration.

But click on a gallery labeled “Dark Side” and you find Poulsen’s ability to suspend reality is not all thumbs. Here, the viewer is confronted by zombies and severed limbs, some for ad campaigns for zombie walks.

Making a mold of the thumb starts the process. Photo: Justin Poulsen
Making a mold of the thumb starts the process. Photo: Justin Poulsen

Poulsen is not as dark as he is fascinated by the makeup and special effects techniques of movies, which imprinted on his brain from watching the Discovery Channel series, Move Magic, in the 1990s.

The magic for Poulsen happened on his first day of classes at Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary when he met an aspiring sculptor named Luke Stalker-Switzer. They bonded over a love for that series and the two have collaborated off and on for projects since.

Stalker-Switzer, now a monster maker looking for work, eventually left the school to take a job with a prop company, where he learned how to use polyester resins and silicones, acrylic monomers and polymers, polyurethane foam and how to make fiberglass molds.

Photo: Justin Paulsen
Photo: Justin Poulsen
Photo: Justin Paulsen
Photo: Justin Poulsen

The two shared knowledge of their respective crafts and over a five-year period, Poulsen learned how to make his own hyper-realistic characters – and the body pieces they leave behind.

“Watching him work with everyday tools and materials broke down what once was an intimidating barrier to the craft of special effects,” Poulsen said of his friend. “Shooting darker material is a niche skill that requires a portfolio to hire for. I would definitely be interested in taking on darker projects, should the opportunity arise.”

Poulsen said he has heard nothing but positive comments from the recipients of his bloody digit. Some have asked for more thumbs.

The finished product sent to art directors. Photo: Justin Poulsen
The finished product sent to art directors. Photo: Justin Poulsen