The Stupid Issue

The Story Behind the Cover of VICE Magazine's Stupid Issue

Photographer Julian Master tells VICE what it was like spending three days in a head-to-toe bear costume to snap the perfect cover shot.
March 9, 2020, 11:58am

This article appears in VICE Magazine's Stupid Issue, which is dedicated to the entertaining, goofy, and just plain dumb. It features stories celebrating ridiculous ideas, trends, and products; pieces arguing that unabashed stupidity can be a great part of life; and articles calling out the bad side of stupidity. Click HERE to subscribe to the print edition.

VICE: Tell us the story behind your cover image.
Julian Master: While I was out shooting this series I noticed a shop on 30th Street in Manhattan that had a bunch of teddy bears in the window. I went in to say hello to the stuffed animals and to see if I could derive any inspiration from the people interacting with them. I saw a cute bear dressed up as the Empire State Building and I snapped a photo.

Were there any funny interactions with people on the street?
The first day I went out shooting in the bear costume, I came across a family of four on Fifth Avenue: a mom, dad, and their two daughters. All four of them were wearing furry leopard print coats. The father offered to pay me $5 to pose with them for a group photo. I asked him to send me the photo but he didn’t. Almost every kid I passed under the age of 10 gave me a very cute little wave, and most people smiled at me as I lumbered around the city.

Where do you get your day-to-day inspiration?
YouTube is inspiring to me; it really is the new TV. I don’t watch TV at all anymore, only YouTube. The Vacuum Wars channel stress-tests vacuums to see which is the best in a wide variety of categories. I find the utilitarian performance of the tests to be inspiring.

But a lot of my inspiration comes from photo books. A couple I’m particularly enjoying right now are Lee Friedlander’s In the Picture: Self Portraits, 1958–2011 and Chris Verene’s Family.

What projects are you working on now?
I have a website where I sell photography-themed enamel pins that I’ve designed. You can check them out at


Portrait by Chris Voss

Julian Master is a documentary photographer living in New York City. His work, which has been published in the Editorial Magazine_,_ aye magazine_,_ and Aint–Bad_, explores relationships between people in big cities._