If you were alive in 1990, you will have been unable to escape the tentacles of Turtlemania – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phenomenon that saw its peak between 1989 and 1991.
Fittingly, the heroes in a half shells' first movie (called, naturally, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) was released in movie theaters in 1990 – and was a box office juggernaut. Racking up $200 million, which is $453,207,345 in today's money, promotion for the film was absolutely everywhere – primarily in the form of its iconic movie poster.
Like Batmania the year before, where the Batman insignia for Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie was nothing short of ubiquitous, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster was seen everywhere from bus stations to newspapers to cereal boxes to bubblegum cards.
It became one of the most iconic posters in pop culture – and now, thanks to a YouTuber and film photography historian, we now know who captured the iconic photograph. Well, photographs.
Calgary, Canada-based photographer Azriel Knight runs a popular YouTube channel where he examines the history and pop culture crossover of photography and especially film cameras.
Among his many endeavors is collecting and cataloguing vintage photography publications – and it was in the September 1990 issue of Studio Photography magazine that he discovered an interview with the photographer: Chip Simons.
At the time, Simons was already a renowned photographer shooting for the likes of Rolling Stone, Fortune, Forbes and Esquire, and his later work would include clients like Nickelodeon, MTV and Cyndi Lauper.
As if often the case, it was his connections established through existing relationships with clients – in this case, Esquire – that led to him being referred to New Line Cinema for the job of photographing the Turtles poster.
Knight's video (above) gives a fascinating insight into the life of a high-profile freelance photographer in the late Eighties / early Nineties, what camera and film Simons shot the poster on, the locations of the buildings in the background, and how much he did (or rather, didn't) make from the gig.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is currently streaming on Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock in the US. You can find out more about Simons and his work on his official website.