Q&A with Michael Gump

There are a lot of different kinds of dads on Instagram. There’s the “blurry vacation photos hurriedly taken on his iPhone” dad. There’s the high-end photographer “I-just-spent-two-hours-taking-the-perfect-shot-of-that-butterfly” dad. There’s the “I just like taking pictures of my grill/Corvette/Settlers of Catan board” dad. But, despite the sheer number of shutterbug dads out there, we can honestly say that there aren’t ANY dads on Instagram quite like Michael Gump.

If you’re not familiar with Gump’s work, you NEED to check out his Instagram account @bobbugs (or the IG hashtag #GumpMasterofDisguise) and prepare to have your mind blown. Almost every day, Gump posts a picture of himself in disguise, but we’re not talking about glasses and a fake mustache. We’re talking about insane, over-the-top, blisteringly creative disguises, in which Gump regularly transforms himself from the neck up into veritable works of art.

Since his Master of Disguise series began, Gump has covered himself in glitter, clothespins, scotch tape, Legos, knives, soiled diapers, Crayons, peanut butter and jelly… even his own kids! His disguises are daily absurdist masterpieces – the kind of magical pictures that make you smile every time you check your Instagram feed.

We were so intrigued by one of our favorite dads on Instagram that we tracked @bobbugs down to ask about the origins of his Master of Disguise project. Fortunately, Gump – a professional prop master and art director – took the time out of his busy schedule to give us a glimpse at the man behind the masks.

8BD: Hey Michael! So, what inspired you to start your Master of Disguise pictures on Instagram?
MICHAEL GUMP: Years ago, I got in the habit of doing a daily art diary, where I would start and complete a work of art every day. The last year that I successfully pulled it off was 2005 — I did a project I called “Mask a Day.” Ten years later, I was missing having a daily art practice and lamenting how I stopped doing them because I became “too busy.” So, I decided to make the time and revisit the mask concept, letting the idea of the self-portrait be the support for my daily experiment. In the past, these projects were rarely seen by anyone but myself and some close friends and family. But now I had an Instagram account and thought that would be great place to share what I was doing.

8BD: How long does it typically take to set up each picture? Do you shoot multiple disguises at a time?
MG: I don’t shoot multiples at a time. I create a new work every day, usually in the middle of the night when everyone else is going to bed. Some go pretty fast, but some take as long as two or three hours. I’ve sacrificed a lot of sleep this year.

8BD: What has been the hardest (or least comfortable) disguise to do so far? Do you have any particular favorites?
MG: Yes, some of the disguises are clearly uncomfortable and/or dangerous. My disguises on January 23rd, March 1st, and April 3rd, come to mind.

As far as favorites, I have a lot of them. March was a good month – March 24th and March 29th were good. I really like May 20th, a.k.a. Mr. Green T, and I want to do more upside-down portraits like June 2nd, 14th, and 18th.

8BD: You’re a dad, right? What do your kids think about the Master of Disguise pics? Do they have any favorites? Do they ever suggest disguises?
MG: I have two kids — Little Sister, who appears on my May 16th disguise (she’s 4), and Big Brother (age 7), who you can see on my May 17th disguise. They get a huge kick out of project and really enjoy reviewing the posts and giving me suggestions. It definitely inspires them. Occasionally, they’ll put some underwear or the like on their faces and declare that they’re starting their own Master of Disguise project.

8BD: How far out have you planned future disguises?
MG: I keep some notes of ideas that I might want to do, but mainly I just free ball it and do them last minute. I might stop at the store on the way home from work and get something for that night or random things to spark inspiration. The project is intended to be sort of a diary, so I just do it on a one day at a time basis.

8BD: If you do something this creative in your spare time, what do you for your day job?
MG: I run BananaBee Lab, a specialty prop fabrication company. I do prop mastering, art directing, and production design for television shows. I do a lot of physical-challenge game shows, fake reality, and crazy kid shows. I worked on Yo Gabba Gabba!, which was a huge challenge and a ton of fun. Currently, I’m working on a show for Sid and Marty Krofft — a kids’ show for Nickelodeon called Mutt & Stuff. It’s a crazy show with puppets and trained dogs. It’s absolutely bananas and you and your kids are going to love it.

The thing that I’m most passionate about right now is a TV show I created called UFO SHOW. It’s going to be the most fantastic show of all time. It’s an alien talk show, hosted by Bob Zerbert, an 8-foot-tall, brain-headed alien. His co-host is a four-armed disc jockey named DJ Infinity. Together, they travel around the universe in a flying saucer with their friend Boxee, a cardboard box computer who’s connected to the Intergalactic Wide Web. You can check out some of the UFO SHOW pilot now on our YouTube channel.

8BitDad promises you won’t be sorry if you follow Michael Gump on Instagram at @bobbugs and you should also check out the charmingly handmade UFO SHOW too – we’re already big fans.